MY NAME IS JEFF

CHAPTER 9

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Chapter 13
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TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20th

10:00 AM

   The first thing Angela noticed about Jeff this morning, was that he was a bit bruised up, and walking with a slight limp.
   "What the hell happened to you?"
   "I was just out practicing some new moves on my bike. Sometimes you have to fall a few times before you get it right."
   "Well, at least I'll be able to report to your principal that when it comes to physical education, you are willing to do the work, no matter how grueling."
   "Believe it or not, as awful as I look, the school's phys-ed progam always leaves me in much more sorry shape than this."
   "So how'd you make out with the blonde last night?"
   This instantly brought a smile to his face. "It's official. Her mother has even given us her blessing."
   Angela grinned and stuck a Disc into the computer tray. "In that case, no matter how much trouble you have with this, I hereby declare you to be officially not stupid." The words 8th Grade Algebra and Geometry appeared on the monitor.
   What he previously found daunting, Jeff now found amusing. "Stacy sucks at this stuff too. She has a friend that does her math homework for her in exchange for history."
   "Nobody is good at everything." Angela leaned back in her chair. "Grab hold of that mouse, and let's see if we can somehow get any part of this to sink in."

1:10 PM

   Jeff cycled over to the school to pick up Stacy's tape. He thought about the fact that ordinarily, he would be in the middle of 5th period math right now, completely wasting his time. Although far from caught up, he felt he at least made some progress today, though the pythagorean theorum still illuded him. He picked the tape up from the principal's office and headed out to the Scarborough school, where he would spend about a half-hour, before taking the tape to Stacy's. Unbeknownst to him, Dana, who sat near the window in math, happened to catch a glimpse of him leaving the school, holding the video. She thought to herself, could it possibly be...?

1:30 PM

   Jeff pedaled up to the schoolyard gate, and was greeted warmly as usual.
   "You look pretty bruised up," observed Andy. "What happened?
   "This morning, I was trying to do that thing you guys were doing..."
   "What 'thing' would that be?" asked Gretchen.
   "The thing where you've got one foot on a front peg while you hold the seat..." Jeff tried to demonstrate, but as usual, the bike slipped out from under him.
   "Was this what you were trying to do?" asked Andy, as he gave an effortless demonstration.
   "Yeah, that's it." Jeff got up and dusted himself off.
   "That's called a steamroller," said Gretchen. "It really isn't all that difficult, once you know where to put your weight."
   "Alright," Jeff picked up his bike. "Tell me what I'm doing wrong..."

   For the next half-hour Andy, Gretchen and Greil gave Jeff a crash course in steamrolling. As always, he thanked them for their time and effort, then rode off to meet his girlfriend.

2:15 PM

   He arrived at Stacy's house, and was greeted at the door with an enormous kiss, which would pretty much be the standard ritual for the rest of the week. She asked him why he was somewhat bruised up, but he declined to answer. He wanted to make sure that he had completely mastered at least a few tricks on his bike, before letting anybody from Faircrest middle school know about his little daily excursions to Scarborough, let alone his girl. For the next three hours, the two of them would sit and watch the tape of what went on in the classrooms that day, with Jeff taking notes. All morning long, Mrs. Kessler had been tending to Stacy's needs any way she could, helping her eat, wash up, brush her hair, scratch her itches, whatever. Needless to say, she was more than delighted to have Jeff come in every afternoon and relieve her of those duties. It was a win/win situation.

5:00 PM

   Jeff pulled the video out of the VCR and the television came on. It was on a religious station. Some weird televagelist was holding up a Ouija board and speaking directly into the camera. "This, my friends, is an instrument of the devil. You allow this into your home, and you are literally rolling out a welcome mat for Satan!" This was followed by a boisterous chorus of "Amens" from the studio audience. As the guy gabbed on in his thick southern drawl, the two eigth graders just grinned at each other.
   The glow from the television gave Stacy's face an otherworldly appearance as she turned towards Jeff, and spoke in a half-cryptic, half-satyrical manner. "You know, this is the sort of shit that was swimming around in my head last Thursday at Sol's bar mitzvah."
   Jeff wasn't sure of what she was getting at. "You think about church when you're in temple?"
   "Like all organized religion, Judaism is nonsensical and tedious." She nodded towards the t.v. "Which is why I need to occasionally catch a glimpse of a program like this...to remind me of just how many evils it's the lesser of."
   Jeff chuckled as he shut off the television, and helped her to her feet. They went out in the backyard, and laid back on the grassy hill like they had done the previous evening. It wasn't completely dark yet, so they were able to revel in the sunset.
   "This is my favorite time of the day," said Stacy, who was in somewhat of a poetic mood. "Cinamatographers call it the witching hour. The sky, and everything around you turns into a very pastel lavender grey, and the clouds turn pink. I always try to be outside around this time. Looking up at the sky is humbling. It reminds me of how insignificant I really am."
   This inspired Jeff to utter a half-serious wisecrack. "Clearly you can see how that feeling would be much more of a novelty for you, than it is for me."
   She continued, "For me, spiritual nourishment comes from the cosmos, not from sitting in pews, surrounded by man-made stained glass windows."
   "Yeah, I really get annoyed whenever Gurvitz starts prattling on about this 'holy house of worship'. As if that synagogue took a century to build by slaves hauling bricks culled from the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I just look at the office building across the street and think about how the temple was constructed in the exact same manner. By a bunch of guys in hard hats, armed with cranes, rivet guns and utility belts. And they all probably worked on Saturdays too."
   "Jeff, have you ever experienced a moment when you've felt like there's more to life than just the tangible?"
   "You know, I want to answer yes in the worst way, but that would be a big lie. And I promise I'm never going to lie to you again."
   This caught Stacy's attention. "When did you ever lie to me before?"
   "A couple of days ago, when I was trying to cheer you up. Remember how I told you about my folks taking me to see Swan Lake?"
   "So they never really took you to see Swan Lake?"
   "Oh they took me alright. It's the part about crying in the bathroom that I made up. Actually, I nodded off about fifteen minutes into it. That Tchaikowski is almost as boring as Rabbi Gurvitz." He got up on his elbows and looked at her. "Stace, the reality of the matter is, I've never had a single paranormal experience in my life. I've never seen a UFO, I've never seen Bigfoot, I've never seen the Loch Ness Monster, I've never seen shadow people out of the corner of my eye, I've never seen any little black-eyed kids following me around, I've never..."
   "Alright, I get the idea. I take comfort in knowing that my boyfriend has no schitzophrenic tendencies. We just need to work a little on your skills as a romanticist."
   Jeff laid back down. "In my darkest hours...which basically means every moment up until a couple of days ago...The only thing that ever gave me any solace was the pride I took in knowing what is and isn't real. Most people take comfort in prayer. As far as I'm concerned, praying is just a pompous word for talking to an imaginary friend."
   "You know Jeff, I believe that for people our age, sexual intercourse is thoroughly inappropriate."
   Jeff paused briefly and then deadpanned, "I suppose you're expecting me to respond to that ridiculous segue with one of my usual deadpan quips."
   Stacy was now sporting an ear-to-ear grin. "As a matter of fact, yes I am. Somehow, you're relentless cynicism never ceases to amuse me."
   "Well, I don't have one. I agree with you. At our age, sex in the biblical sense would not be wise."
   "That's a pretty parochial attitude for an Atheist."
   Jeff sat up on his elbows again. "Now let me set the record straight, here. This has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with logic. Sex-ed was probably the only class I was able to stay awake in last year. First of all, there's the issue of unwanted pregnancy, and secondly, there's the fact that you probably wouldn't enjoy it."
   "Why do you think I wouldn't enjoy it?"
   Jeff rolled his eyes. "Alright, if you want to get technical, I was taught that at your age, the vaginal cavity isn't quite elastic enough to comfortably accomodate moving foreign objects. If we were to engage in that sort of activity, it would more than likely be very painful for you. The last thing I ever want to do is cause you pain."
   Stacy chuckled. "Well thank you very much for teaching me about the elasticity of my vaginal cavity, Dr. Feingold...And then of course, there's also the issue of spreading communicable diseases."
   "Oh get real. Obviously neither of us has to worry about that." Jeff laid back down on the grass. "By any chance, is there some reason that you chose this particular moment to raise this issue?"
   Stacy now had a sly glint in her eyes. "As a matter of fact there is. There's something important I want to let you know."
   "What's that?"
   The expression on her face grew slightly more flirtatious. She took a deep breath. "Well, now that we've established that boundary..."
   "Yes...?"
   "I just want to let you know that if you want to, you do have my permission to cop a feel." She winked at him.
    
Jeff continued to gaze at the sky, but with a slight grin. "Do I not inadvertently do that every time you have to pee?"
   This cracked both of them up.
   "That's not exactly what I mean."
   Jeff got up on his elbows again. "Well, why don't you say what you really mean?"
   "What do you think I really mean?"
   "Look, when you live in a house with sisters, you learn a few things about girls. One of them, is the fact that for some reason, they like to stand in front of the mirror and play with their boobs. It's probably driving you nuts that you haven't been able to do that for the last few days."
   "Jeff, I just think it's a little weird that you've been to 1st and 3rd base with me, and completely skipped over 2nd..."
   She never finished her sentence. Jeff leaned over and gave her another long kiss. This time, after about ten seconds, he very gently laid a hand on her breast. This only lasted for about twenty seconds, when he suddenly stopped and sat upright."
   Stacy was understandably a little out of breath. "What's wrong?"
   "You know something? That goofy preacher with the ouija board might be on to something." He was even more out of breath than she was. "Perhaps we shouldn't be messing around with powers greater than ourselves." Stacy now started to laugh uncontrollably. "What's so funny?"
   She threw his words back at him, "Why don't you say what you really mean?"
   "What do you think I really mean?" Jeff was still catching his breath.
   "I think you really mean that if you had kept your hand there for about fifteen more seconds, you would've probably wound up losing it in your pants. Then you'd have to cycle home with sticky underwear."
   He knew when he was beat. "Yeah, that too."

9:00 PM

   Stacy's cellphone rang. talking into it was a bit of an ordeal with her cast. It involved first opening it, then laying it down on the bed, then kneeling next to the bed and resting her head on it sideways.
   "Hello?"
   "Stacy, it's me," Came Dana's voice over the receiver.
   "Hey, what's up?"
   "How're you adjusting to the cast?"
   "It's been a little inconvenient to say the least, but I'm learning to take it in stride."
   "I've got a question to ask. I've noticed a video camera in Mrs. Pickering's class. Is sociology being taped for you?"
   "Yep. I receive it every day, along with my 1st, 2nd and 4th period classes as well. Mr. Lazarus says it's now standard proceedure. If they know a student is going to be absent for a week or more, they tape every class except gym and the elective. Since they just use the same tapes over and over, it doesn't even cost anything."
   "Listen, I've got to ask you something. When it arrives at your house, does it just get dropped off in the mailbox, or does somebody knock on your door and hand it to you?"
   Stacy had a feeling where this conversation was heading, and answered cautiously. "Actually, somebody knocked on the door and handed it to my mom. Why do you ask?"
   "I was in math today, and just happened to be looking out the window. I saw something potentially disturbing."
   "What was that?"
   "Jimmy Feingold left out the school's front door carrying what looked like a videotape. He got on his bike and went off in the direction of your house. I just wanted to give you a heads up. If he's the delivery boy, you'll probably want to avoid answering the door yourself."
   Stacy was both angry and amused at the same time. Obviously Rhonda had elected not to tell Dana about her and Jeff. She had the perfect comeback line. "Dana, I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I don't know anybody named Jimmy Feingold."
   "What are you talking about? He's that moron who just got expelled for insulting my mother. If you hadn't held me back, I would've hit him in the head with Darwin's Origin Of Species."
   Not wanting to press the matter any further, Stacy wormed her way out of the conversation. "Dana, I really don't care about how the tape gets to me. It doesn't make it any more or less boring to watch. Listen, in order to talk with you, I have to kneel in a very akward position next to the bed. For the next couple of days, can you just instant message me on the computer instead?"
   "But you'll only be able to type with one hand."
   "So the conversation will be a little slow. At least I won't have a sore neck when I'm finished talking."
   "I hear ya. I can't wait 'til your back in school. Everybody misses you."
   "Tell everyone I miss them too. I'll be seeing you soon enough."
   "Love ya, Bye."
   "Love ya, Bye."

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