Life returned to normal following homecoming. I decided to live as Jamie at home and as James during school hours. And Ben lets say I made another email account. 'FlowerPrincess ' it was a Jamie email, one for Jamie to keep in contact with all her friends. I had given this email to my sister, who had passed it onto Joan who had, in turn, passed it onto Ben. And that how Ben and I kept in contact with each other for the fortnight that followed homecoming.
But as the minutes, melted into hours and hours into days and days into weeks, I found myself almost thinking like Jamie. Small things, quickly became bigger things, and like a small snowball rolling down a steep hill, quickly transformed into really huge things. It started small, like me forgetting to wear boxers and instead choosing to wear panties. That lead to me coming to school with some nail polish still on my fingers from the weekend of clubbing (Going to the Skating Rink) with my sister and her circle of friends.
That lead to me, sometimes going into the boy's bathroom to apply make-up or freshen up my make-up only to stop when I discovered that I was in fact not wearing any. In all these matters, I thought nobody but me seemed to notice them. I was wrong, my peers had noticed them and the hard nose, crew cut, tie and button-down wearing male teachers had too.
Linda too seemed to be haunting my footsteps. Going from one class to the other I tended to notice her out of the corner of my eye. Standing around the corner, her arm's folded and her eagle eyes scanning the hallway. Since her fallout with the cheerleaders, she has taken to hanging out with the more radical element of the school.
I would be lying if I said our school was not divided down social-political lines, those lines dived even the closet of friends. At the core of this divided where two groups. The first one was made up of the son's and daughters of the farmers that lived and farmed around Benton. Most of them came to Benton in the land boom that followed the First World War, when a lot of the land that was before nothing but swampy hardwood bottomland, was cleared and drained and put under the plow if you will. They tended to flock around Benton First Baptist Church and held the words of there preacher the Rev. John Mark to be words of God.
They were in a way, the majority of the student population. The second and smaller group tended to be drawn from the small merchant class that had been in Benton since the town was founded. The Potter Clan had been among those who had first settled the area that would become Benton, the small settlement was then called Hanna's Bluff, the source of the name remains' a mystery. But oddly enough there is a headstone belonging to a "Hanna S. Potter" in graveyard attached to "St. Mary's Episcopal Church".
The date of birth for "Hanna S. Potter" is given as September 28, 1769, and the date of death is listed as March 19, 1834. If my brief and sketchy understanding of the local lore is correct, her date of birth and death covers the period when the settlement fist formed as "Hanna's Bluff" then changed to "Benton" when the small settlement was granted the status of county seat of Yazoo County and also the status as a city. And finally the period it was demoted to just a minor town when the county seat, along with the records where moved to the then boom town of Manchester, later to be called Yazoo City.
But yes, those who belonged to the old merchant class and banker class tended to belong to the local Methodist and Episcopal Church. They tended to be more open minded And more welcoming of people like me, now this matters because the current headmaster was a strict Southern Baptist, who for lack of a better word, had a very narrow view of the world. To Mr. David McPhail, the world was divided into two colors, white and black. He was also on the extreme side of things, how extreme, I was about to find out.
The day started out as a normal school day. The first bell of the morning heralded the start of another day of note taking and lessons. The cloud of depression that had hung over the school had lifted following another smashing victory again Central Holmes Christine Academy. The rumor mill was starting to turn as well, hush whispers of the Benton Raiders reaching the playoffs were starting to be whispered by some freshmen football players. Manchester had also won their last game, and many of boy shivered at the thought of facing the Mavericks once more on the playing field.
Closer to home, another rumor was being passed around, okay it was more fact than a rumor, but rumor none the less that the hostage for the football game had not been a girl but in fact a boy in drag. This rumor had more profound and lasting effects. Some people felt that a boy playing the part has the hostage had ruined the sense of tradition, others noted that by a boy being present... The guarding deity of football had been offended and had justly removed its proactive hand of providence from the Benton Raiders for that night… That somehow explains why half the football team ended in the A&E ward of King Daughters Hospital.
All of that was swirling around my head as I entered into my first period 'Natural science' now the natural science classroom was located in the old part of the school. The classroom was small and lined with shelf's, the shelves were lined with tall, one-gallon jars filled to the top with embalming chemicals that had long turned to brown. Small creatures such as frogs, tiny birds, and baby squirrels were all floating in the old chemical. Above them on the shelf's coated with a good three or four inches of dust sat covered in spider webs and dust old metal pipes and copper tubing.
At the very back of the room was an old wooden cabinet. Through the yellow glass, we could see old bottles of chemicals. Each brown, dust coated bottle had a piece of peeling yellow tape glued to the center of the bottle. Long ago somebody had taken the time and effort to write with a pen what each bottle held, now the ink had long since faded and nobody dared to open the bottle.
I hated this room, it was hotter than hell in the summer and colder than a meat locker in winter. The room always smelled and sometimes the smelled made my asthma to act up. The teacher Mr. Henderson, was an old man with a hunch back and a balding head. His eyes were dark gray and his fingernails were long and yellow. He always wore the same thing day in and day out a dark, old gray suit.
It was Mr. Henderson who greeted me when I walked through the door.
"Mr. Potter." He said in a croaking tone of voice. "The Headmaster would like to speak with you."
I blinked and blinked again as I watched him snuffle across the dirty floor and toward his desk. He eased his bottom down into an old leather armchair that was as old if not older than he was.
"There a lot of people too, the preacher from the Baptist church there. There Ms. Perry and her father there seems they're finally going to set you, straight boy." He said chuckling as he reached down and wrapped his bony fingers around a thermos. He removed the cap and poured a long stream of black coffee down into a mug that was dotted with coffee stains.
"I told you, boy, Get a proper damn haircut. People think you're a girl, hell you act like one. If I had you back in the good old days, back when I first started to teach. I could have bound you up right here and sheered that pretty hair of yours. Go now boy, they're either going to tell you to get a proper haircut or tell you to get!" He shouted the last word as he started to choke on his coffee. For a good minute, he coughed and hacked and coughed and hacked till at last, he settled.
I balled up my fist and took a deep breath as I turned on my heel and marched toward the door.
"Wait a minute... If you please, Mr. Potter,." He said in a coy tone of voice.
I stopped and turned around and doing my best to be polite, I peered toward the old man. I raised my eyebrows and fixed my eyes upon him.
"I hope they give you the boot. Benton Academy was founded to provide a classical education for the sons and daughters of the wealthy of this town. It was formed to keep the idea that this country was founded on pure. You, you sir." He said standing up and taking a deep breath. "Sicken me, with your long hair, your gentle expressions, your soft hands. And worst of all, instead of learning Greek, Latin or Hebrew, you focus all your energies on learning that Japanese... Benton Academy does not need your kind here sir."
I stood there, my blood started to boil in me. I saw red. I came within a hair's breadth of walking up to the old man and slapping him upside his head. But... I could not, he was a teacher and I was a student. So, forcing myself to gain control.
"Mr. Henderson... Sir with all due respect. It's Jamie." I said narrowing my eyes at him.
He blinked and blinked again.
"Say that again.." He said almost growling as he peered at me, I swear I saw the fires of hell flickering behind his eyes.
"My name, its Jamie Sarah Potter. And you will do well to note that in your grade book. As I'll not be answering to James, or Mr. Potter anymore. Please address me as Ms. Potter." I said with a wink and then with that I tossed my hair over my shoulder and marched out of the classroom. And behind me, I could hear him bellowing something that neither man nor beast could understand.
"You get out of here boy! You get out here! If I was your mom and dad, I would have your ass on the first train to Vicksburg! Let Chamberlin-Hunt straighten you out! Do you hear me, Mr. Potter! Do you understand me, Mr. Potter! Clean your ears out boy!"
And so my heart racing a million miles a minute. I walked down the hallway, wondering what awaited me.
And there another episode ends.