The first day of school

Chapter one of the novel You Don’t Think She Is by Max Harrick Shenk


School BusAugust 28, 1968 was a perfect southcentral Pennsylvania summer day in every way but one. Hazy, bright, with dew clinging to the grass blades… wide green lawns sparkling in the low morning sun… the air cool enough to wear a windbreaker, but once the sun got above the housetops, the dew would burn off and it’d be hot, humid.

Perfect, like I said, in every way but one…

“I HATE stupid school,” my best friend Margo moaned as we pedalled down the block toward the first day of third grade. “I can’t WAIT till I’m an adult and I don’t ever have to go to stupid school ever again as long as I live!”

“Hey,” I said, “at least we can ride together.”

“‘Together!'” Margo huffed. “Misery loves company,” and then, without taking a breath, her hand still wrapped around the handlebar, she pointed with her left index finger. “What’s goin’ on up there?”

I saw them too: two blocks away, a mirage on the distant corner. Five kids in a close little group, standing at the entrance to Buford Circle.

“Steve Kelly and them,” I said. “They take the bus.”

“The bus?” Margo said. “How come they take the bus?” Tsk! “Their dad, probably.”

Their dad exactly: the bus took the five Kelly kids (Tom IV, Kathy, Christy, Steve and John) to Book Of Father Louis Parochial Elementary. Senator Tom Kelly wanted his kids to attend Catholic school (“I’d like them to be grounded, Katie”), but Katie Kelly, loathe at even a whiff of elitism, wanted her babies to go to public school (“Just because you kowtowed with Bobby Kennedy doesn’t mean we became royalty!”), so the interfaith compromise was: Catholic elementary school; then public school from seventh grade on. (“Before they really get into the program,” spake Katie Kelly, nee Sutherland, of the Quaker Valley Lutheran Sutherlands. Got it?)

Of course, Margo knew the Kellys, but since it was her first morning commute in her new neighborhood, she’d never seen them standing out there in the morning, all dressed up: Steve and Tom and John just a little hot and sweaty in black slacks and white buttoned-down-collar shirts; Kathy and Christy slightly more comfortable in crisp white blouses and green-and-black tartan skirts.

I’d seen them, though, and as we approached them, I felt myself tensing up a little. The rays seemed to get stronger the closer we got: four houses, three, two… Margo was eying Christy, and Christy was eying Margo back, from behind her brothers, next to her big sister. She whispered something to Kathy and, as we got within first down distance, our eyes met and she looked down. I looked down too, at the pavement moving under the front tire of my bike‑‑ why did I feel like I had to look down?‑‑ but Margo looked right at Steve. “You guys look like you’re goin’ to church,” she called out as we passed, and as Steve said “Catholic school,” Christy tsked and rolled her eyes. “I’ll pray for you, Margo!” she snipped, and Kathy gave her a light shove.

“Yeesh… what’s with her?” Margo said as we pedaled away, and then, as the little yellow BFLP SCHOOL minibus passed us by to pick them up, she laughed a single HA! “At least we don’t have to ride to school on the retard bus,” and I laughed, and for the time being, anyway, my allegiances were clear.

Download a free e-book of the first 13 chapters of You Don’t Think She Is (in PDF, mobi or ePub format). Click here to download. Password is QVSRC

You Don’t Think She Is by Max Harrick Shenk

Book cover 6x9 - front - FINAL“Intensely imagined and beautifully written, You Don’t Think She Is follows Brian and the two loves of his young life, Margo and Christy from childhood into puberty. Brian is a decent kid; inhibited, horny, confused – and in love. His best friend Margo may be the coolest girl ever; uninhibited, athletic, mature beyond her years. Margo’s good friend Christy likes Brian, Brian likes Christy, Margo tries to bring them together, but…The result is a wonderfully convoluted, just-go-ahead-and-kiss-her coming-of-age story. “(Greg Comer, Amazon reader review)

Available in print and Kindle editions. Click here to order.


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