In this installment of the so-far untitled story about Theo and the Cherry Street School, Theo meets Jacob Sheridan, and the issues about the school bully and the mystery of Dev, deepen. To keep in touch with this story, please “Follow” the website at the link below.
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Half way across the parking lot, he heard his name.
He hadn’t heard the boy walk up. Nobody knows me.
“What? Who are…”
The boy extended his hand. He was eight or so inches shorter than Theo, with a round face, round metal rimmed glasses and a crew cut. He wore a red, blue and yellow striped shirt, creased gray pants and black loafers.
Theo shrunk a little, feeling sloppy and underdressed in his faded jeans with the patched right knee, black sneakers and green Farmington State sweatshirt. That was all he had time to unpack.
“I’m Jacob Sheridan,” the boy said. “I’m the seventh grade student president, which make me the official greeter to Cherry Street School.”
Theo shook his hand. “Is that a real thing? Official greeter?”
“Ah,” Jacob said. “Yes and no. It’s something I take on personally, when circumstances call for it. I’m in Miss Wilson’s class. I understand you are in Mrs. Schreck’s classroom.”
Theo wiped his hair. Who is this kid?
“Look, I need to get to her classroom. My papers got messed up.”
“May walk with you? You’ll have about fifteen minutes before they lock the doors.”
Locking doors, Theo thought. They’re always locking doors. He nodded to Jacob. “Sure, thanks.”
Jacob was smiling. “My, that was some play you made to end the game.”
“Thanks. Try not to think, just react. Bounced it because we didn’t have gloves.” Theo replied. “You don’t play?”
“My mother dissuades it,”
Dissuades it? “Oh, sure.”
“She convinced the principal that my time would best be spent in advanced math and science, not physical education,” Jacob said. “I’m taking calculus and freshman chemistry.”
Theo bit his lip. He had no idea what subjects he was supposed to study. “You some kind of genius? No offense.”
“Oh, none taken. I’m smart,” Jacob said with a short, firm nod. “I was reading at three, playing Brahms at four, and performing piano solos at church at five.” …
Theo pointed to a pair of boys hanging from the school’s brick wall. One fell, bouncing off his feet and rolling backward.
“What are they doing?” Theo asked Jacob.
“Ah, that’s the wall crawl, a Cherry Street School rite of passage.”
“What‘s that mean?”
“Status is everything at this school,” Jacob said. “Do you need to return home immediately?” Theo shook his head, no. “Excellent. I live a block way.”
The street had cleared of students and vehicles; they walked alone.
“The athletes band together,” Jacob continued, “The pretty girls cling, the less fortune huddle in the corner of the lunchroom. Clothes matter, your parents’ car, your address, your favorite music, all are subject to judgement. You have to be cool to be included.”
“Wow. All that matters?” Theo asked.
“More than you can imagine,” Jacob said.
The tone of the reply puzzled Theo. So lonely sounding.
“I take it you’re not cool.”
“I am busy with, well, things, rehearsals and such. I am certainly not an athlete. Besides, my piano concert master would not allow it.” Jacob held out his soft, perfectly manicured hands.
“Hey, so look, Jacob, I’m new here and don’t know anybody. And I think you’re cool. But you gotta show me around.”
Jacob’s round face split with a smile. “That, good sir, is a deal.”
“So, what’s the idea with the wall thing?”
Theo caught a look in Jacob’s eyes.
“Interested, are you?” Jacob asked. “It is a challenge and somewhat of a legendary event. It began years ago as just something to do before class. Boys would walk along the wall using the gaps on the bricks for hand holds. Suddenly it was a competition. If one boy went twenty feet, another would crawl thirty feet.”
“Anyone make it all the way? In Lakeside the challenge was to swim to Halfway Rock and back, more than a mile total.”
Jacob offered a winking smile. “One boy, several years ago. John Danforth.”
“Any relation to Bobby Danforth?” Theo asked. “I had a run-in with him at lunch.”
“And he was the boy you threw out at third base to end the game.”
“What are you getting at?”
“Bobby Danforth is, shall I say, the lesser of the Danforth boys. John Danforth is a top student, captain on all the sports teams, the homecoming king…”
“What’s a homecoming king?”
“Did your school not hold ceremonies for graduation, and the like?”
Theo laughed. “Jacob, when we passed one grade to another, we started the next year by sitting on the other side of the room. Anyway, so I take it Bobby Danforth is not as good at stuff as his older brother.”
“And from what my mother says—she works for the Danforths — he is reminded of his position often.” Jacob’s eyes hardened. “The Danforths are the most prosperous family in this town. The library is named for them. Now they own banks. They are respected, but not well liked. From what my mother says, Bobby is falling short of the family model.”
“But he takes advantage of his family’s … whatever it is,” Theo said.
“Yes. How would you know?”
“Knew some kids like that in Lakeside. Families landed on the right side of the money and the kids thought they were owed something for it.”
They paused in front of a brick house with a wide porch.
“This is my house,” Jacob said. “Would you like to come in?”
“Thanks but I need to find someone. Look, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He took a step, then stopped. “There’s something personal between you and Bobby Danforth, right?”
Jacob sighed. “Yes. Last year at the schoolwide recital at the high school,
I was performing a short piano piece when he and two other boys rushed on stage and rolled the piano away. The audience laughed and I was humiliated.”
“And they got away with it.”
“They claimed it was a comic sketch and I was part of it. And that my shocked expression was all an act.”
“And it wasn’t.”
“No.” Jacob stared into the street a moment. “But, it passed.”
Theo shook his head. “Naw, naw, it ain’t. But I bet it’s hard to stand up to him, huh?”
“I’ll give you a hand, but I gotta find Dev.” Theo, with a wave, started to walk away.
“You mean Andrea Duarte.”
Theo turned back. “Who? No, Dev. Andrea Devlin.”
“Her name is…look, she should tell you.”
Theo didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t sound good. “Does that have anything to do with Bobby Danforth calling her ‘onion girl’?”
Jacob frowned. “Sadly, yes.”