A story by David Buffet. This story may not be copied or distributed
without the express written consent of the author. Copyright 2001 All Rights
Reserved. This story will contain homosexual acts performed among
consenting teens. If reading such a story is illegal where you are,
don't. The author welcomes all constructive email, which should be
sent to email@example.com
Friday had sucked. I mean, it had really sucked. Everyone Chris knew had fallen apart, and he had to pick up all the pieces that were once his friends and try to put them back together again. The guidance counselors were a sight that day. They finally had a purpose, and they took to it like they had been waiting all along for just such a crisis to occur. If one more fucking adult makes me break into a small group and say how I fucking feel about things, Chris thought, I'm going fucking ballistic.
Chris had liked Mrs. Gumm. All his friends had taken her performing arts class when they were freshmen two years ago. But she was a fucking case even then. Maybe that's why they all liked her. She was a great teacher, but she had such a hard time holding it all together that she made you feel kind of sorry for her. I mean, how many teachers just start crying in the middle of class for no reason at all? You gotta respect that, Chris thought.
Gumm had been out all year. The other teachers wouldn't say why, but Rat had overheard a few of them talking about it. Seems she was battling depression. Well, thought Chris, seems she lost the battle. It was only Monday, but the guidance counselors were already back in their little cubbies giving career placement tests or whatever the hell they did. At least they're out of the way, he thought.
It was third period. Actually, it was toward the end of third period. His French teacher would have given up any hope that he would be returning from the bathroom by now. No, that's not true, he thought. More like his French teacher was just realizing that her hopes that he wouldn't return were realized. Madame Abelarde hated him.
Screw her. This was important. He needed to be ready for lunch. He knew people would be fucked up today, and he knew they'd need him. And he needed a few minutes of quiet before he could face them.
A bug crawled over his wrist as he lay on the low stone wall. He hated bugs. They gave him the creeps. And the stone wall was fucking covered in bugs. What the fuck.
He could hear the bell ring from inside the buildings to his left and right. There was immediate commotion as students moved in stupid, ovine precision from one ridiculous place to another. I will never be a sheep, Chris thought. Anything but a sheep.
It was the first of two lunch periods. Chris and most of his friends had first lunch this year, so they'd be showing up any minute. Chris sat up and surveyed himself. He counted eight bugs. Fuck. He swept them off his clothes.
Rat came first, fresh from Latin. He was a little glassy-eyed, but it was hard to tell if that was Gumm-shock or just the normal effects of Latin.
"Hey, man," Rat said.
"Hiya, sweets. How you doing?"
"Sucks," said Rat.
"Yeah," said Chris. "Sucks."
Rat dropped his knapsack, fished a sandwich out, tore off half for Chris, and sat on the wall near his friend.
"When was the last time you talked to Lindsay, man?" Rat asked.
"This morning after English. You?"
"Last night. She wasn't doing too good."
"She'll be okay. She really liked Gumm. It's Casey I'm worried about."
"You talked to Casey?"
"Yeah," said Chris, taking a bite of the sandwich. "We hung out together yesterday. He was saying that Gumm had the right idea."
"Fuck," said Rat.
"Yeah, fuck," echoed Chris.
"You think she did?"
"What, have the right idea?"
"Yeah. You think she did?"
Chris was silent for a minute, taking another bite of the sandwich while he thought about it. "I don't know. Maybe for her. I mean it's not like it's for me to say, you know? But not for me. How about you?"
"No, man," Rat said quickly. "She was wrong."
Chris giggled. "Dead wrong."
Rat giggled too.
Within ten minutes the whole crowd was there. Lindsay had shown up and Casey too, to Chris's relief. People were talking. It was surprising, actually. It wasn't like they were mourning her death anymore. The shock of it had kind of worn off. It was more like they were celebrating her life. People were laughing. Maybe it was that Chris was not the only one to have partaken in some pre-school endurance.
"You remember when she held that birthday party for Shakespeare?" Ellis was saying. Sheridan guffawed at the memory as Ellis continued. "She had this bust thing of Shakespeare set up in the front of the class, right? And she had made this cake that was, like, totally covered in whipped cream. So she comes in with the cake, and she's holding it out in front of her, and she starts singing happy birthday, right?" By this time Ellis was laughing so hard he was having difficulty getting the words out. "But you know Gumm. She's holding it to her body as she sings and then puts it down in front of the statue, but she had held it too close and there's like these two whipped cream circles right on the ends of her boobs." He was crying by this point. Actually tearing, he was laughing so hard. Sheridan took over.
"No one had the heart to tell her. So she goes through half a period with these two little whipped cream nipples."
"Oh, honey," said Chris, "that's it. I'm wearing whipped cream nipples tomorrow. And you, little Rat, can lick `em off."
"Fuck me," said Rat, smiling.
"Sweets, I've been trying! But you won't let me!" They all laughed.
"So finally," Sheridan said, starting to lose it herself, "she looks down and sees them there, and she looks up with this totally confused look on her face and says, `My…,' -- you remember the `my'? She says, `My, but when did I grow those?'"
Everyone had heard the story a thousand times, and everyone laughed as hard as they did the first time.
There was another story. It was in the days when Chris had just started wearing all black. The third time he walked into class dressed that way, she looked up from her book, glasses pushed low on her nose, and said, "Auditioning for some stage-crew gig?"
"I'm staging a protest," Chris had answered.
"My, how grand. What are you protesting?"
"Social activism," Chris said.
Gumm smiled and let it drop, but the next day she showed up in a black dress, topped with black hat and veil. Even Chris had difficulty not grinning when he saw her.
"You protesting too?" he asked.
"Of course, my dear."
"What?" he asked.
"I'm protesting copycats."
Gumm had been a star in the classroom, they all agreed. And she lived larger than life, which they respected. But they also understood that when you live in a life that large, you can get a little lost in it. And she had.
So what were Chris and his friends feeling that day as they talked and sighed and laughed on the stone wall? Sad. There was certainly sadness in there -- sadness for Gumm. And respect, I think. Respect that she'd actually take the step if she were that fucked up. They all had different views on this, of course. Some thought she had made the right decision -- they felt kind of wistful -- and others thought she had copped out. They were angry with her. No, not angry with her. They knew better. They were angry at a world that made her feel like suicide was her only choice. They knew that feeling very well, each and every one of them. And they were buzzed, of course. Not a lot, but definitely that was part of the cause of what happened next. And they were bored. Mind-numbingly bored. What else could they be?
Smith and his friend Greg were coming back from lunch. They went out for lunch each day, enjoying the off-campus privilege they earned by playing the game of being a student without visible rebellion. That put them in the parking lot on the far side of the humanities building every day about ten minutes before the end of first lunch. And that put them on the walkway along the other side of the courtyard from the stone wall every day about nine minutes before the end of first lunch.
This day, as they crossed the walkway, Greg looked at the scene before him on the stone wall and was disgusted by it as he was every day he passed the scene on the stone wall. He nudged Smith and motioned with a nod to what he was looking at. Smith looked over and saw it too. They were all relaxed, splayed on the wall and each other. But the boys were all way too…soft.
"Faggots," Greg called as he and Smith walked the walkway.
Now, this was not the first time Greg had walked the walkway, nor was it the first time he had shouted that particular word at Chris and his friends. It wasn't the first time Chris and his friends had heard it from Greg, and Greg was hardly the only person they had heard it from. Every time they had heard it -- that particular word -- their reaction was pretty much the same. Chris and his friends fell into silence. Silence! Oh, it was not a happy silence, as I'm sure you would guess. It was a pursed-lipped, temple-throbbing, narrow-eyed, screaming silence. Because what else can you do when someone shouts that word at you? Especially when you know your secret -- that it's true and you deserve it? What can it possibly make you feel? I tell you, that feeling better be boredom, or you'll end up like Gumm in no time.
No, this was not the first time Greg had called them faggots. So what happened next took Greg entirely by surprise since what he expected was for them to just sit there and take it like the wussies they were. Instead, after he had shouted "faggot" at them, the one all in red sat up from where he was laying with his head in another kid's lap and shouted back.
"How the hell would you know, Loretta?" he called. "I've hardly ever sucked your dick."
Greg was heading toward them before the kid had even stopped talking. But he felt a tug that prevented forward motion. Smith had grabbed a fistful of the back of his T-shirt, and wasn't letting go.
"C'mon, man," Smith said quietly. "They're not worth it. Wait till the season ends." Greg reluctantly let himself be pulled through the doors of the science building.
Chris's friends looked at him in shock. It was only after a full minute that the conversation at the stone wall began again. Chris broke the silence by reminding them of one of Mrs. Gumm's favorite sayings: "My dears," he said in her voice, "you have to remember that sometimes God works through assholes."
Meanwhile, Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, had just hung up the phone. Another asshole parent complaining about some completely unimportant shit. Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, spent half of his workdays listening to asshole parents complaining about completely unimportant shit. Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, had 637 workdays left before he could retire. Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, knew that number very well. Hardly had he had a chance to take a breath when there came an insistent, distinctly European rapping at his office door.
Justine Abelarde walked in his office, stood by the door, and frowned copiously.
"What's the matter, Justine?" Asked Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal.
"Guess who left for the bathroom in the middle of my third period class and never came back?"
Justine Abelarde nodded. "I've had it up to here with him, Seymour. Really, I have. I don't know what else to do. He's sitting on the stone wall now. For all I know, he spent half my class there."
"I'll talk to him."
"Thank you." She left as purposefully as she had come in.
Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, dug out a walkie-talkie from under the mess covering his desk and pressed the button on it.
"Yeah?" he heard the walkie-talkie squawk back.
"Tony, listen. Go break up the gang on the stone wall, and bring Street back here."
"Got ya, boss," squawked the little black box.
Anthony Coppiello actually liked his job, if you can believe it. He had been a driver for UPS for years and years until, at fifty three, he had lifted some box the wrong way. Now he was out on permanent workman's comp. Last September, he had seen the Campus Monitor position that the high school had posted in the newspaper. It didn't get in the way of his disability checks, so he took it. Why not pick up some extra cash?
Anthony's job was to wander the halls of the high school making sure the kids were where they were supposed to be. This freed up teachers from having to do hall duty. The teachers loved him. It was an easy job, and it felt good to be able to walk around all day. It was a nice change from thirty years of sitting in a truck.
He was in the arts building when his walkie-talkie squawked and he got the call to go to the stone wall. He headed down the hall. A small group of kids sat in a circle in a corner outside one of the doors to the auditorium. He recognized them. They were good kids -- mostly in the band. Anthony pretty much recognized all the kids in the school. Ninety percent of them were good kids. Plastic trays whose catsup and scraps of hamburger bun and remaining French fries were the only testament left to the lunches they had eaten were arrayed around the inside of their circle. He approached them.
"Hi, Mr. C," said Benjamin, cheerily, waving a fry at him.
"Hi, Benjamin," he said warmly. "Keeping the walls from falling down?"
"Someone's gotta do it."
Anthony laughed. Good kid. He continued walking, but turned a few steps before the door.
"Listen, kids," he said, "be sure to clean up those trays when you're done eating, right?"
"We always do, Mr. C," Benjamin said with a smile. Anthony Coppiello, nodded and left the building heading for the courtyard and the stone wall.
The conversation at the stone wall had, as you might imagine, turned somewhat animated.
"Don't you know what you've done?" asked Casey, still shocked by Chris's retort. "You're going to get killed! First of all, everyone is going to know, and then you'll get killed!"
"So everyone knows. I couldn't care less at this point," Chris said. "I'm just tired of it all. I mean, fuck him!"
"Yeah, `fuck him'," Ellis echoed. "But seriously. He'll beat the shit out of you."
"I don't care. So he beats the shit out of me. Either I die or he goes to jail. Either way…"
"Don't get killed, man," said Rat, "I'd miss ya."
But Chris didn't really hear him. Something interesting was happening inside him. He had listened to what he had just said -- twice. A grin slowly grew on his face as the realization spread through his being. This was big. It was very big. It was true, what he had just said -- he didn't quite know what had changed, but it was really true. He didn't care. The smile became so broad and genuine that the other kids stopped talking.
"What?" said Rat.
"What what?" asked Chris, coming back to the outside world.
"Why are you smiling?"
"I just realized something," he said.
"Yeah? And what's that?"
"I really don't care."
"That's bad, man," said Rat.
"No, sweets, that's good!"
"Fuck," said Rat. "Here comes the Cop."
Coppiello was heading toward them across the courtyard.
"Okay, kids," he said when arrived at the stone wall, "back to the cafeteria. You know you're not allowed to eat outside the cafeteria. And Chris, follow me."
The others started dragging themselves up to begin the slow trek back to the cafeteria. There were so many moans and complaints, you could hardly hear it -- the shot heard round the school. Chris lifted himself slowly from where his head lay in Rat's lap, and said, quietly, "No."
Everyone froze. No?
"C'mon, folks," Coppiello repeated. "Go to the caf. Rathmuller, Langley, let's go. You can't eat out here. C'mon, Chris. Don't make me get angry."
Chris smiled. His voice was eerily calm and firm. "No, honey," he said. "They're not going to the caf, and I'm not coming with you. You can get as angry as you want."
Coppiello began to raise his voice. It always gave him the willies when Chris called him "honey" or "sweetie," and Chris knew it. "Enough of this, Chris. Get your butt off that wall and follow me."
Chris was amazingly relaxed. He was smiling easily. The other kids watched, trying to figure out what was going on and what was going to happen.
"Get your scrawny butt off that wall, Street, or I'll get it off for you!" the Cop yelled.
"Actually, you won't," Chris beamed. "You can't."
He turned to his friends who were gaping at him. "He can't. Don't you get it? He can't move us. He can't touch us. So what? He gets the Ass Prince here? What can he do? Suspend us? He's going to suspend a dozen kids because we're eating outside the cafeteria when half the school eats outside the cafeteria? That wouldn't look so good in the community , would it? They have all this power, right? It's bullshit. Don't you see it? They don't have power; we give them power. Well, I don't care anymore. I'm fucking tired of it, and I'm not going to play their game anymore. I'm going to eat my lunch wherever the fuck I want to eat my lunch." He turned back to the Cop.
"You have no power here," Christopher Street said to the Cop in a perfect imitation of Billy Burke as the Good Witch of the North. "Now be gone, before someone drops a house on you, too."
I may have gotten some of the words wrong. I wasn't there, so I'm not sure. I am sure, though, that that was the moment the high school changed. It's so weird, you know? I mean, it was in the air. Chris and his friends had been getting more and more outrageous over the weeks, so it was only a matter of time before something happened, I suppose. But nobody expected that!
There was a riot of sorts at the stone wall. It wasn't your tear-gas, looting, rape-and-pillage kind of riot though. It was…well, it was a festive riot. The Cop pretty quickly understood that there was nothing he could do and called for back up. The Ass Prince showed up but found himself in the same position as the Cop. He was ready to suspend all of them -- ready, willing, and able. But the bell had rung in the time it had taken for him to get there, and in the intervening moments, a crowd had gathered. The crowd was full of good kids -- kids who mattered. By the time the Ass Prince got there, Street was standing on the wall yelling about justice and equality. And the crowd was agreeing.
Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, found himself next to Benjamin. He was about to get Street off the wall when Benjamin spoke to him.
"You know I think he's an idiot, Mr. Pine, but he has a point. It really isn't fair. I mean, we eat in front of the band room all the time."
Benjamin was one of the star students in the high school. National Honor Society, 1570 on his Boards, straight As, president of more clubs than you could count. That Benjamin was finding the trouble-maker persuasive made a very bad situation very worse.
The kids broke up when the next bell rang and they all went to class. The next morning, someone -- don't tell anyone, but I'm pretty sure it was the Rat -- anonymously dumped a pile of broadsheets in the halls he had printed up on his computer. The broadsheets recounted the events of the day before in heroic language, talking about an "insurrection" against the "source of repression," and called on all kids who believed in justice to act! Act now! That day at lunch there were thirty kids eating at the stone wall, including Benjamin. And the next day, there were half a hundred. Seymour Pine, Assistant Principal, wasn't quite sure what it was all about, but he knew how to pick his battles. More importantly, he knew which battles not to pick. He called Coppiello off and spent first lunch for the next few days on the other side of the campus.
The fifty who showed up on the third day weren't quite sure what it was about either. For them, it was just a chance to snub authority and pretend they were rebelling. There was a lot of joking around and a lot of laughter. If you didn't know, except for the crowd, you'd hardly recognize it as a protest. But the original dozen knew exactly what was going on. They recognized it from the moment Chris had said "no." For them, life at the high school would be very different from then on. And because it was different for them, it would be different for everybody.
Well, that was the story of Christopher Street and the Stone Wall Riots. Are you remembering it now? Does it seem familiar? Do you remember that Francis Gumm had just died? Do you remember that Pine ordered the raid in an effort to "clean up" the comminity? Do you remember the pre-riot reports that the Rat published, including that the stone wall was responsible for an outbreak, given the filth of the place? Do you remember the Rat's coverage of the riots? Do you remember that it was the most disenfranchised, the most hated of the school who were responsible for starting the movement that freed us all? Do you remember how only a few people understood, at the time, just how important the riots were?
I knew you would remember these things. I knew it would all come back to you once I got into it. I told you -- it is our history. But there's so much more to it -- so much that I know you've forgotten. Like how that one word -- "no" -- changed everyone's life. Like how the Front came together and broke apart. Like how Rat and Chris ended up together, and how Benjamin...wait. I'm getting ahead of myself. I will tell you that next.