“Offers a sympathetic and insightful portrait of high school life in the heartland.”—Julie Salamon, author of Devil’s Candy
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||4 MB|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
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Read an Excerpt
“Welcome to the first edition of Total Godhead. We at T. G. Headquarters open our arms and hearts to all of you who wish to read our wonderful paper.”
Dave Bettencourt was pale when he came into the senior quad that September afternoon. He spoke solemnly, which was not like him at all.
“Chief knows it’s us,” he told Brian Ross. “Chief” was Steve Mitchell, their principal.
“How’d he find out?” Brian said.
“He called the cops.”
Burrillville High had never seen an underground newspaper before. In the two days since theirs had materialized in lockers throughout the school, Dave and his staff had kept to the shadows. No one could figure out who was behind this publication with the bizarre name Total Godhead. Maybe it was Satanists, as one girl speculated. Maybe it was a teacher who’d gone over the edge. Maybe troublemakers from out of town or, more likely, some loser kid on drugs.
Even a careful reading didn’t provide an answer. Each of Total Godhead’s thirteen articles was bylined—with names like Toilet Duck, A. Nonymous, and Sum Yung Gi. The only clue that looked legitimate was a local post office box, through which Godhead hoped to solicit fan mail, subscription orders, and gifts. Among the suggested gifts were Elvis stamps and condoms, “unused, of course.”
“What did the cops do?” Brian asked Dave.
“Went to the post office. They traced it to my dad.”
“They can do that?”
“They did it.”
“I don’t know.”
There was funny stuff in Godhead—you’d have to be a dweeb not to get it. Like the the story about meatball stomping, or the one about the human bludgeoned by baby seals. But some of Godhead was irredeemably tasteless. One article was an ode to obscenity—a gratuitous listing of such items as rectal thermometers, nasal fluids, roadkill, and hairy gnome scrotums, whatever they were. One article was inspired by “Cop Killer,” the controversial song by black gangsta rapper Ice-T. One reprinted the lyrics from “Rape Me,” a song by Nirvana, Kurt Cobain’s band.
Another piece slammed classmates—by name and with exacting physical descriptions, lest there be doubt of who was being savaged. “I’m sick of the way you dress” is how one boy was ridiculed. “What the heck is it with the little beard thing?” went the attack on another kid. The sharpest words were directed at the class president, Justin Michaelman, who’d been elected in a stunning upset over Matt Stone, a clean-cut, three-letter athlete who’d held the office junior year. “How the heck did he become president?” Godhead said of Michaelman. “What a moron.”
Dave and Brian withdrew to a corner of the quad, where they might have privacy while figuring out what to do next. The quad was nothing like what its Ivy League-sounding name suggested—only a rectangle of lawn with scraggly shrubs, a single tree, and a manhole cover that boys (never girls) periodically and with great ceremony pried off, as if something rare and wonderful lurked in the darkness below. The quad’s sole furnishings were a trash barrel, a rusted barbecue grill, and two picnic benches decorated with obscenities and declarations of undying love. But permission to hang out there was a senior privilege, and even on inclement days seniors flocked to it, if only to flaunt their status to underclassmen.
Another senior privilege was hosting this Friday’s get-acquainted dance, an annual hazing. Since lunch, the mood in the quad had been giddy as seniors made their plans. Could they get away with hosing down the freshmen? Coating them with Crisco oil, catsup, or WD-40? Freshmen were clueless—you could make them kiss your naked butt if you wanted to. The challenge was determining the precise location of the line that Chief and his assistant principal wouldn’t let you cross.
Dave and Brian’s privacy didn’t last. It was just too obvious: Something was going down, something with a better buzz than a dance.
“What’s going on?” said Joel Waterman, Dave’s best friend.
“We got caught.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“Uh-uh,” Dave said. “Chief called the cops.”
“What do we do now?”
“I don’t know. Maybe just forget about it.”
“We can’t do that.”
“Did he say what he was going to do?” Joel said.
That wasn’t a good sign.
“I think we have to talk to him,” said Jason Ferguson.
And Ferg was right: If Godhead was to go forward, they really had no choice. Off they went: seven boys led by Dave out of the quad and into the administrative wing of Burrillville High, home of the Broncos, a public school with 825 kids in a town of almost seventeen thousand.
Chief did not look amused when the boys got to his office. He looked bigger than he was—and he already was very big, a six-three, broad-shouldered, dark-haired man who sometimes wore a full feathered headdress when teaching students about his people, the Penobscot Indians of Maine.
“We’re the staff of Total Godhead,” Dave said.
“Come in,” Chief said.
He closed the door.
The coffee was always fresh in the principal’s office, the jellybean jar always full. Chief had decorated with pictures: of his wife, his stepdaughter, his faculty, a black-and-white shot of his grandfather in ceremonial garb greeting John F. Kennedy when he visited Maine as a presidential candidate in 1960. The biggest display, most of a wall, was of kids—this one a state policeman now, that one a Hollywood actor, this other one still in college. There were pictures of this year’s juniors and seniors, of cheerleaders and athletes, of kids in prom finest. You had to search to find one without a smile.
But Chief’s office had multiple personalities, and now, as he went eye to eye with each of the boys, it seemed stuffy and small, a place they gladly would have escaped.
They weren’t members of the in crowd, these boys, weren’t losers or jocks—didn’t fit neatly into a clique, which Chief suspected was a point of pride. Joel Waterman, a slender boy with a sharp tongue who was the school’s most computer-literate student. Brian Ross, who owned seven guitars, knew more than three hundred rock ’n’ roll songs, and bore a passing resemblance to Kramer on Seinfeld. Ferg, a contemplative kid who wore an earring, shaved the bottom half of his head, and had a bent for industrial design. Jason Cote, an artist and a lover of science fiction whose red 1989 Pontiac Firebird was the most coveted car at Burrillville High. Bruce Walls, who had a future in engineering but currently was into cigarettes and girls. Michaelman, an actor and artist who was never satisfied with any way he wore his hair.
And David Paul Bettencourt, who wrote for Godhead as Terry Gimpell, a pseudonym he’d plucked from the air.
Dave was skinny and tall, a boy with short dark hair, brown eyes, and the first traces of a mustache and beard. His attire was characteristic of his generation: baggy pants, T-shirt, Reeboks, cap worn backward. (Before entering the principal’s office, he’d put it in his pocket.) Chief knew Dave was an honors student, that his family was neither rich nor poor, that both parents lived at home, and that he was not an only child. He knew Dave was not known to need any rehabilitation or counseling—not a head case. He knew Dave was seventeen and wanted to go to college. He knew … well, Chief didn’t really know much more than that. Half the kids at Burrillville High were like Dave, moving through the mainstream with barely a splash.
Except now that he reflected, Chief realized how superficial his perception had been. He remembered the junior prom, when Dave, walking arm-in-arm with another boy—a boy!—had smiled and blown kisses to the crowd during the Grand March, still hallowed after all these years. He remembered last spring’s underclassmen awards night when Dave, to the mortification of many, especially his old English teacher, a staid sort, had done jumping jacks across the stage. He remembered the final day of school, when Dave had conspired with some of these same boys to create a fake murder scene—stage blood, body outline, police tape and all, very realistic—in one of the busiest corridors of the school.
And maybe that was just the warm-up. Not three weeks ago, Chief had gone into the cafeteria and found Dave presiding over a picnic. He and the gang had spread a blanket on the floor, sat down, and started on their sandwiches. It was the second day of school.
“You’re so queer,” a girl at a nearby table said.
“Like you make a difference in my life, space ghost woman,” Dave replied, to a dirty look. “Look—it rained. What can I do? I don’t control the weather.”
Chief had decided to let it pass, even though he could have nailed the picnickers on a technicality—surely there was some rule somewhere about proper conduct at lunch. “This is unique,” is all he said. “Just don’t block the door.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is amazeing for comeing of age teens