Danny Virgil holstered his book bag onto his back, sprang away from his desk and was almost out the door when the school bell rang. Danny only heard the first half of the homework assignment before the teacher’s warble was swallowed up by hallway rumble.
Danny wasn’t concerned about not knowing the homework, that was a problem for later. His problem now was that he had only four minutes to get from the top floor of the school down to his Lit class. That was in the basement, that was his mission.
He was two hallways from the down staircase. He leaned forward and hunchbacked through the mass, ricocheting off underclassmen at will. He bounced off the mouse-haired sophomore girl clutching her broken copy of The Bell Jar. The girl fell in Danny’s wake. He could almost hear her lamentations, or maybe she was just swearing at him.
He made a wide turn into the second hallway. Momentum was pushing him and he couldn’t swerve around the drug deal going down in front of him. He slalomed in between the quick hand exchange. Jimmy the Connection was fast at pulling the dime bag back. In a moment he had shoved it into his pants. The kid with the money wasn’t as lucky. The folded ten-dollar bill skittered down the hall. Jimmy shouted at Danny’s back, “You’re killing me, Virgil.”
Danny was descending the down staircase. His speed slowed due to traffic congestion. In the corner of the stairwell, a Junior couple were pushing into each other’s pores, their dry humping aided by the ebb tide of the moving mass.
Down to the first floor, Danny jumped over the crumpled Freshman collapsed on the bottom step, as he turned into the staircase going to the basement.
The final few steps to the bottom floor were blocked; they seemed to be reserved for two girls having a slap fight. The students behind Danny were pushing him into the pit of flailing hands. He lurched towards the rail and leaped over, landing several feet below on the foot of a Sophomore campaigning for Student Council. Her hand shot up and the election flyers fluttered above everyone’s heads like the falling leaves of autumn.
Danny pinballed toward the Gym and stopped. Before him was a gaggle of linebackers in varsity regalia celebrating their ability to be upright and ambulatory after the last big game. There was no way he was going to push his way through that. He wasn’t going to make it before the bell rang.
Danny felt the weight of all the books and expectations on his back. He was going to fail. It wasn’t as if this was important. There was no reason for this daily mad dash. He just did it, he just needed some goal to get him through the day, through the classes and detritus of learning and now he wasn’t going to win. The annoying part was that he was so close this time, he had made it to the gym. Wait, he thought, the gym.
He didn’t have time to think. He shot into the gym, past the soccer nets and dangling ropes. He closed his eyes and ran into the girls locker room, hoping that no one was changing clothes yet. He didn’t hear any squeals or shouts, so he figured he was safe. He went out the hallway door in the rear of the locker room and went past the boiler room and there it was. There was his Lit class.
He collapsed through the threshold. He’d made it with thirty seconds to spare, one of his best showings. The teacher shook his head, “Every day, Danny? Every day?” Danny strutted past the chalkboard with the day’s essay quiz written on it, something about describing the fate of Brutus and Cassius in Act V.
Danny Virgil de-armored from his book bag, slithered into his desk, put his head down and by the time the bell sounded, he was triumphantly asleep.
David Macpherson lives in Central Massachusetts with his wife Heather and son George.