MY NAME IS JEFF

CHAPTER 4

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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15th

8:00 AM

   Jeff decided to at least show up for homeroom and his first three periods like he had done the previous day. It was all a bit eerie. As if nothing out of the ordinary had happened at all. He said his hellos to everyone like normal, and they all returned his salutations with their usual indignant glares. He walked by Cindy and Dana, who would normally give him some sort of angry gesture. This morning, neither of them seemed to even notice he was there. As he passed them, he managed to hear a snippet of conversation.
   "...So Gavin is gonna be in a neck brace for the next few days."
   "What exactly happened?"
   "Apparently the floor of the boy's bathroom was wet and he tripped..."
   This alone, made his decision to attend the first half of the school day worth it. Now he knew for certain that Gavin was either incapacitated or not there at all, so he wouldn't have to be watching his back as much. It was also obvious that Gavin was embarassed enough about losing a fight with him to lie about it, and make sure that Gordy went along with it. Once again, Jeff arrived at his locker at the same time as Stacy Kessler.
   "Heya Stace."
   She grabbed her books and walked off without acknowledging his existence as usual. Some things never change.

11:30 AM

   His first three classes went by without incident. Jeff wolfed down his lunch, and decided that today, he wouldn't even wait for the bell to ring. He quietly made his way over to where all the bikes were locked, got on his, and rode off, somewhat emboldened by the fact that he had now gotten away with it once before.
   He arrived at the private school to find the same cast of characters that had greeted him yesterday. Before he had a chance to say "Hello," they all actually said it to him first, and called him by his first name...his correct first name. If only they had any idea how much Jeff was reeling from being shown this simple common courtesy. Leaving Faircrest middle school and entering the yard of Scarborough was essentially like exiting the bowels of hades and entering the land of Oz.
   "Ready for today's lesson?" asked Greil.
   "First let's see if I still remember everything you taught me yesterday."
   He spent the next hour having the most fun he had ever had in his life. These kids seemed to enjoy the novelty of having someone they could take under their wing, and show the ropes to. Before departing, Jeff made sure to let them all know that if there was ever anything he could do for them, to just ask. He offered to bring them all a pizza the next time. They said they'd take it into consideration.

4:15 PM

   "Hurry up Jeff!" he heard his mother yelling from outside the bathroom, where he was looking in the mirror and fumbling with his tie. He passionately hated getting dressed up in a suit. "We're going to be late."    "Yeah yeah..." Was his plaintative response. He finished up and came out. "I'm still not sure why I have to go to this thing. I don't even know Sol all that well."
   The event he was talking about was Sol Gurvitz's bar mitzvah. Marcie and Aggie were also attending. Nobody in the family was particularly enthusiastic about going, but because Sol is the rabbi's son, Jeff's parents felt it was obligatory.
   "I told you," answered Mrs. Feingold. "He was at yours, and it wouldn't look right if you weren't at his."
   "Of course he was at mine," observed Jeff. "His dad runs the joint. He's at everyone's. If everybody who's bar mitzvah he's ever attended shows up this evening, there's not going to be any place left to sit."
   "I don't want to hear any more sarcasm. Everybody's already in the car waiting for you."
   Jeff followed his mother outside, and stepped into the back seat with his sisters. His father drove, while his mom rode shotgun. The synagogue was easily within walking distance, but they were late and decided it would be best to take the car instead. Mr. Feingold found a parking space, and the family quickly entered the temple, and found five empty seats off to the side, just as the service was about to begin. As Rabbi Gurvitz started chanting something or orther, Jeff's mind and eyes instantly began to wander, just as if he were in another boring class at school. Although he had never said it out loud, religion meant absolutely nothing to him. He himself had been bar mitzvahd only four months earlier and already had little memory of it. Just something he went through because his parents insisted that it wouldn't look good to all of their friends if he didn't. All he could remember about it was standing on a podium and receiting something or other in hebrew that he had learned phoenetically. Now here he was sitting through yet another snoozefest.
   It was a large auditorium with curved rows of seats, and Jeff just started to look around to see if there were any familiar faces in the crowd. He didn't have to look for long. Sitting about two isles back towards the middle of the temple, were Stacy and Dana and their mothers. The moment he layed eyes on them it became obvious that at least Dana was already aware of his presence. She held up a prayer book with both hands, and the fingers on the hand that was facing him had all been scrunched into a fist...except for the one in the middle. She wasn't looking directly at him, but no doubt had him in her peripheral vision. The angry smirk on her face said it all. This was now starting to take on an air of surrealism. In his mind, this was no longer a bar mitzvah. You might as well just call it "7th period." The only difference between this and school is having to wear a suit and a yamulke.
   It was then that Stacy whispered something in Dana's ear, left her seat, and exited the auditorium. Probably going to the restroom, Jeff figured. Suddenly he had an idea. He knew that the ladie's room was on the side of the auditorium where his family was sitting, and if he were to exit the door that they came in, she would have to pass him in the lobby to get to it. Aggie was sitting next to him, and he whispered in her ear, "I'll be right back." With that, he got up and headed for the exit.
   As soon as he entered the lobby, he turned left and started walking. Sure enough, Stacy appeared around the corner, walking right towards him. As their paths crossed, he greeted her with his usual mantra, "Heya Stace." And as usual, her response was to continue walking past him without looking at him or saying a word. It was as if he were in a parallel universe that was invisible to her eyes.
   At this point Jeff was downright indignant. It's one thing to pull this sort of crap in school, but this was allegedly a "holy house of worship" of some sort, where everyone is supposed to be nice to one another. There was no way he was going back into that auditorium. He opened the door, managed to get his younger sister's attention, and motioned her to come over. As she approached, she looked perturbed.
   "What are you doing?" Aggie was giving him the same kind of disapproving glare he was used to getting from his parents and teachers.
   "I'm leaving."
   "You're what!? In the middle of a religious service?"
   "Tell Mom and Dad that I've gone over to Carl's to finish an important class project...which by the way, happens to be the truth." Jeff figured that their inevitable anger might be tempered somewhat by the fact that he was at least getting some homework done. Fat chance.
   Aggie shook her head "They're gonna be pissed."
   "I know, but there are just too many people in this audience who hate my guts, and believe me the feeling is mutual. The fact is, Sol doesn't know or care whether or not I'm here, and I'm sure his dad doesn't either. I'll see you all this evening."
   Jeff stormed out of the building vowing never to return. Luckily, Carl lived fairly close to the temple, and he didn't have too far to walk. As he passed by a garbage can on the street, he yanked the yamulke off of his head and tossed it in. At this point, he no longer cared if his parents disowned him. For once, he was his own man. Walking at a brisk pace, it only took about fifteen minutes to arrive at his friend's house. He knocked on the door and Carl's mother answered.
   "Hi Jordy. Come on in. Carl's in his room."
   Jeff didn't even bother to correct her. By this time, he realized that it would just be an exercise in futility. He went directly to the room in the back of the house.
   Carl was sitting at his computer writing something or other. He looked over his shoulder and saw Jeff, who was still wearing his suit, although he had loosened his tie a bit. "Hey, you didn't have to get dressed up just for me."
   "Carl, I've decided what we're doing tomorrow, and it's not going to take much time to put together. The subject practically writes itself."
   "Alright. And what would that be?"
   "Religion."
   Carl thought about that for a moment. "Which religion did you have in mind?"
   "All of them. I don't even think we really need to work together on this. Just rattle off a page on all the positive contributions you can think of that organized religion played in the history of mankind, and I'll go home and do the opposite on my computer. I know you're smart enough to throw this together in one evening, and you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that I'm not going to have any problem with it either."
   Carl really wasn't adverse to the idea, but he did have a question. "Jeff, is there any particular reason that you think I'd be better at writing the pro than the con?"
   "No, it's just that you're going to have to do it by default. I can't think of any pros, and I don't have enough of an imagination to invent any."
   With that, Jeff bid his friend adieu, and went home to work on his speech. He knew there would be hell to pay when his family arrived, and wanted to get as much work done as possible in the interim. Also, he needed the privacy of being able to rehearse out loud in front of a mirror. His presentation was going to be the only one in the class which would not involve reading from a sheet of paper.

7:00 PM

   Jeff was rehearsing in front of the full length mirror in his room, what he would be his speech before the class the next day, when he heard the family car pull into the driveway. He sat down at the computer and started typing something, thinking it would look more like he was doing homework when his mother or father walked into the room. His dad swung open the door and immediately ripped into him.
   "What's the matter with you? Do you realize how embarassing that was for us, you leaving like that?"
   Jeff was a bit fired up by the speech he was rehearsing, and decided to take on his father. His swivel chair swung around, "Your embarassment is unwarranted. I guarantee you that nobody but you knew I was there, or that I had left."
   "I spoke to Rabbi Gurvitz after the ceremony, and he was wondering why you weren't there!"
   "No he wasn't," contradicted Jeff. "That guy has probably presided over at least twenty bar mitzvahs since mine, and I'm sure he has no memory of me as an individual. If he said anything, it's only because you probably walked up to him first and said, 'I'm sorry that my idiot son isn't here'."
   His father was indignant. "Usually, we have trouble getting you to do your homework, and now you're using it as an excuse to..."
   "It's not just the homework!" Jeff cut him off. "I'm going to be blunt. What just took place inside that temple was a complete farce. Sol Gurvitz is a flaming fairy, and the whole school knows it!"
   "What the hell are you talking about?" Mr. Feingold was fuming. "Sol is only 13 years old!"
   "Yeah, and he's also a fruit. With some people, it makes itself obvious early on. The sheer incongruity of him participating in some ceremony that's supposed to make him a "man" is just a little too..."
   "I've heard enough from you," his father cut him off. "Sol is a straight-A student. Something you'll never be."
   Jeff equaled his anger, "So you'd rather I be like him? Think about that for a moment. Do you want grandchildren some day?"
   Fred Feingold just stood there with an angry scowl on his face. Jeff could actually visualize smoke spewing out of his ears.
   "I thought so." With that, Jeff's chair spun around, and he continued to tap away at his computer. Roughly five seconds later, he heard his door slam hard behind him. It would be a long time before the two of them would be on speaking terms again.

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