This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this story are fictitious. Any similarity to actual people and events is supremely coincidental.
I never watch the news. It doesn’t exist anymore, not really. Let me start over.
I never really watched the news. I always found it useless. If something important happened, I’d find out about it another way, whether through a phone notification I thought I had disabled or through someone near me checking their social media.
The news always frustrated me. It was on so many different channels at the same time, all competing with each other over the same thing: keeping our attention so we can stick with them until the next commercial break. We all get this by now, but did we when it mattered?
So what made one channel the most watched news network, the most watched news station in my region? Did people actually trust one channel number over another? Was it their channels way of reporting? [yes] Was it their connectivity to social media? [yes] Was it because one channel had a better-looking reporter than another? [yes] Was it a hundred other reasons that we never knew about because they already got to us on a subconscious level in order to sway our loyalty without us even knowing we’d made a decision? [yes]
I will never understand the media. It controls us all. It influences our politics, our gossip, our everyday lives.
In school, there are designated labels. Even though as time goes on and we all got more “progressive,” the cliché labels remain the same: Preps, Jocks, Cheerleaders, Stoners, and Bad Asses. I don’t understand these labels. Everyone is just a follower to someone else.
The leaders of each clique may not confer regularly, but there is a mutual respect among themselves for making their way to the top of the high school food chain. It’s teenage politics, except the leader of high school lasts in office for a matter of weeks before someone else takes their place. In order to run the school, you need to be spread across all the cliques in a way that everyone can agree on and accept, being ok with you as their representative for all the other shitbags they don’t like. You need to appeal to the masses. Create your own category, be a Wild Card.
Don’t be a Prep. Does that really still exist? Of all the cliques, I feel like the Prep is the dying breed. I can’t even explain to you what a Prep really is, I guess it’s the young peoples way of pointing out the rich kids without straight up calling them the “rich kids.” Play sports, but don’t become a jock. In high school, most people are smart enough to pass any class. They just get lazy. I had my plans, and I couldn’t waste time with homework.
What I’m trying to get at is that what you are in high school, you stay that way for life: a follower. Everything is run the same way. The government. It runs the media, it runs the school, it runs your life. They are the leaders. They say what is right and what is wrong.
Of course the government is paid for and brought to you by corporations that have placed their dirty fucking hands in the politicians pockets and jerked them off until they’ve cum in their pants and can’t stand up from their desks for fear of admitting what just happened.
We live in a world where everything is politically correct. If it’s not, you’re thrown somewhere. Jail, or out of the country. Maybe just out of your neighborhood, or your social standing, or your social media circle. Online crucifixions have become too normal.
Two years ago, all parades were banned in the USA. With the ever growing inclusion of everyone in everything, every single parade began having a representative float from whoever wanted to be represented. Parades were going on for six hours, with bystanders passing out from heat exhaustion, but all the medics were walking in the parade and were unable to aide the needy. They tried, but by the time they heard their call to action over all the fire trucks from the surrounding towns blasting horns, three people had already started seizing and one old lady died. In Cleveland, Ohio, the parks and recreation advisor put a cap on the amount of people who could march in the parade. The town, and the entire internet, blew up on him, annihilated him through slanderous articles, and forced his resignation and subsequent self-imposed isolation. That next parade, no one was in the audience to watch because everyone in the town was marching in congratulations of their victory.
Eventually, there was a national decree that parades would be banned. It was a case of “All of Them Or None of Them.” What’s interesting is that in the same bill ceasing all forms of parades, all guns were deemed legal for anyone, anywhere, anytime. It was both a celebration and a sadness, as those who were ecstatic about the new gun law wanted to have a parade to celebrate, but couldn’t. They understood what it was like to uphold the law and in doing their civic duty, bought every gun possible, constantly. You know, to be safe. It's too bad they didn't know what was coming.
There was a good-looking couple in Los Angeles. She was pretty, he was handsome. They were both white and middle class. They were expecting a baby. A great couple.
“They will go far,” people said.
He murdered her and was sentenced to 14 years. The media had a field day. No, not a field day, a whole fucking field year.
There was a couple in Brooklyn. Both African-American, not the best looking couple. Close to poverty. They lived in a small apartment on a “bad block.” They were expecting a baby.
“That kid will have to struggle to make it out and be successful,” people said.
He murdered her and was sent to prison for life. Not one reporter asked questions. Not a single TV camera showed up.
The media chooses their battles. They always win.
In Georgia, an overweight kid died from food poisoning of potentially mislabeled or poorly handled food that came from his cafeteria. The school lost some money, had a few board meetings, and now they get checked by the health department a little more regularly. They are all better now. Oh they had a candlelight vigil for the kid, but it was on the same night as the football game, so no one showed up. Poor bastard.
In Seattle, a gorgeous 17 year-old girl got food poisoning that came from potentially mislabeled or poorly handled food that came from her cafeteria. She didn’t die, she was hospitalized (for dehydration). There were local news reporters waiting for the health department inspectors when they arrived at the school to investigate. All around the country, people know about poor Brittany Westgate and how she had the runs for a while.
No one is shallower than the media. Brittany’s school was shut down and hasn’t opened back up.
About six months ago, there was a car accident on a highway in Michigan. The one with the trees on both sides that goes on forever. It occurred at about 3:00 am and there were no survivors. From one of the cars, a Chevy, came yellow smoke.
The media gave us a thirty second retelling at 6:00 am. Nothing special. I wasn’t up for this telecast, but it became public record (when that was still a thing).
This accident was a tiny scratch on the USA
It only received those thirty seconds of air time for one reason: none of the bodies could be recognized. They were all burned to a crisp. Experts found what looked like remains of a bomb had possibly exploded, but they weren’t certain.
One family phoned in a missing person’s report. They matched cars, they lost a family member. The Chevy’s plates couldn’t be recognized and the body was never identified.
The next day in school, no one knew about the accident. The crash took place about 100 miles from my house. Ninety-eight from my school. My school was small. We lived in a small town. None of this exists anymore. My school held about 500 students between 7th and 12th grade. We lived so far from civilization that we were always a few years behind on pop culture trends. Half the school tried to be in the grunge stage. Half of them didn’t even realize Kurt Cobain was dead. I never wore flannel.
Not wearing flannel made you a Prep. Throwing food in the lunchroom disqualified you from the Prep label, and pushed you closer to Bad Ass territory. I quit sports a year ago. I was an ex-Jock-Stoner who refused to wear flannel (what is this obsession with flannel? Fucking kids...I don't know), kicked out of the Preps, tried to date Cheerleaders, and a self proclaimed Bad Ass. What the hell was I? A perfect candidate to run the school for a while.
The day after the first crash, I went to the bathroom during 3rd period. I was excited about the big party my grade was having for all of us completing our science fair projects. The party, taking place on the upcoming Friday, was going to be kick-ass; they even hired a DJ. There was going to be lots of food and drinks and we didn’t even have to bring in anything ourselves.
On the walls of the bathroom were scribbled things about hot girls and teachers. What girl had the nicest ass, what teacher swallows, whose manhood is biggest. Poems about perverted things. My favorite one was:
Yankee Doodle went to town
Riding on his mother
Every time they hit a bump
He got another brother
Next to a drawing about Vanessa’s pubic hair pattern, I wrote: Friday Is Going To Be the Bomb!
I left the bathroom, hoping to check back later and see positive feedback from other kids. Who needs a like or a share when you can get a tangible, anonymous response? Soon, without anyone suspecting, I would move up on the social ladder. Yes, by inking the wall.
The next day, I went to the bathroom to see if I had any responses. Underneath my note was: Yeah Its Gonna Be A BLAST
Two boys excited about a party while relieving themselves.
In Louisiana, at 4:16 pm, there was a car accident. There were three cars involved, one of them was a Chevy. Yellow smoke came from the accident. Everyone involved in the accident died, their bodies burned unrecognizable.
This made the news as a traffic report for the afternoon commute.
A little dirt gets into the tiny scratch
Thursday came in anticipation of Friday. This party was going to be sweet. They even planned to roll out thin rubber mats to cover the gym floor and everything.
At 10:32 AM, an accident happened on a five lane highway in Connecticut. Ten cars were totaled.
Third time’s the charm.
This made the evening news. Of the ten cars burned, two were Chevys. Yellow smoke came from the crash site. All the bodies were burned. A bomb had gone off in one of the cars. Am I repeating myself?
The families who probably lost loved ones in the accident were questioned by the police.
The accidents were too random to be connected.
Friday. Sitting at our desks, watching the clock count down to the end of 4th period, which marked halfway through the day and the beginning to our party/end of the school day. Although it was broken half the time, this Friday, the clock ticked away at a scientifically valid rate. With five seconds left before the inevitable bell, an announcement came over the loudspeakers, canceling out the signal.
“Hello, this is Mr. Bass, your principle speaking.”
“The fish is speaking!” someone yelled, never growing tired of the lame puns that grew from our superiors last name.
Mr. Bass continued, “I am now at this time going to issue an evacuation of the school.”
A large roar of “Huhs?” and “Whys?” swept over the classroom.
“You heard what Mr. Bass said, let’s go people,” said our teacher.
We all got up and walked into the hall. The halls swarmed with confused students of all ages. Some ran. Were they really that scared? We didn’t even know what was going on. Some teachers began ushering us outside.
It’s in these moments that you get a sense of the pecking order for the teachers, based on who takes control and who ducks and covers with the students.
Michigan is always cold. All five hundred students stood outside in the freezing cold because we were told we didn’t have time to go to our lockers and grab our jackets. They wouldn’t let the DJ in to set up. Instead, the frisked him, then he left, along with any spirit we had for a party. The cops came. They searched the building. The fire department came. They searched the building too. Once they left, eventually, we were allowed back inside.
At the end of the day, we were given a letter to bring home, still warm from the copy machine. It said that today’s evacuation was due to some threats written on the boy’s bathroom wall. The threats included the words: Friday, Bomb, and Blast. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The letter reminded everyone that bomb threats were highly illegal and if you were caught, you would go to jail.
What a fucking waste of a Friday.
On Monday, halfway through 2nd period, an announcement came over the loudspeaker directing everyone to go to the gym. For a moment, I thought maybe they were doing a do-over for the party we never got.
The librarian brought in The School TV on The TV Cart and turned it on. The TV was too small for a regular classroom to see, let alone an entire school packed on the bleachers. Since nobody could see what was happening, everyone started talking to one another.
“Turn it up!” I yelled.
The crowd grew louder and more ambivalent.
I was sitting at the back of the bleachers with all the other cool kids. I looked down at the floor below and saw it littered with gum wrappers, soda bottles, and empty chip bags. I climbed down without anyone seeing me and walked out the side.
“What’s going on?” I asked one of the teachers standing by the bleachers.
“Go sit down, Johnny.”
“Why won’t you tell me?”
“Because you’re not sitting down.”
I walked to the front of the bleachers and looked up at all my peers. They kept talking and fooling around, ignoring it all. No one knew what was going on, and no one cared.
I left the gym, walking past students and teachers alike. I heard one, “Where are you go-” but I don’t think they even bothered to finish their sentence, too lazy and uncaring to bother one more syllable.
My school prided itself on being very uptight about safety. I walked out the front door.
It was a little chilly, so I walked back in to grab my jacket. The halls were deserted. I wish I had brought my skateboard that day, but those had been banned the year before, worldwide.
I grabbed my jacket and checked my pockets, always keeping a few dollars stashed away for times like this.
There was a 7-11 down the road from my school, so I walked there.
When I entered, the entire staff (of three) stood in the corner, staring up at the TV.
One of the dudes was leaning on his mop, something that both looked cool and uncomfortable at the same time. He looked at me.
“Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“Shouldn’t you be mopping?”
I grabbed a Twix and a Pepsi and stood behind the staff under the TV.
The news was on, the words “Terrorists Attack” screamed across the bottom of the screen.
They were reporting that terrorists had caused deadly car crashes all over the country. They showed us a map of the country with yellow dots blinking wherever an attack had taken place. They said the terrorists kept cans of yellow smoke in the cars with them to signify their mark. I guess they would release it moments before the crash.
The scratch becomes an infected cut
The terrorists also kept a bomb in the car. The bomb was meant to kill them in case the crash wasn’t successful. The bomb was also meant to burn everything until the police wouldn’t be able to get any kind of information from the bodies. It cremated them.
These people were smart. My favorite part of this whole ordeal was the message the terrorists sent us. On the map of the country with the blinking lights, “experts” had connected them with a line. People were paid to connect the dots. Kindergartners should be millionaires. The connect-the-dots came out to be a little picture. The picture was a fist. A fist with its middle finger straight up. Experts suggested that the terrorists were trying to tell us something.
I finished my snack and left without paying - fuck ‘em.
The halls were still empty at school. Taped to the walls were papers talking about the party that had been skipped because of the “bomb threats.” I ripped it off and watched it float gracefully to the ground. A calm before the storm. There were other papers on the walls, so I ripped those down too. I even ripped one into a bunch of little pieces. Then I walked to the gym and went right back to my seat on the bleachers. I joined in on the already-in-progress game of Fuck, Marry, Kill – Science Teacher Edition.
When I got home, all I did was watch the news. There was a Chevy involved in every accident.
The President came on the screen. I shut off the TV.
Freedom Toast - Part 2 will be published next Friday