Synopsis:Trent has a secret that he’s been keeping for years, and Jane just found out about it. The big surprise is not what the secret was, but why he was keeping it!
Legal Drek: Daria and her cohorts are property of MTV and Viacom.
This story is Copyright October 20, 2003
Trent, The Brain
Jane rooted around under Trent’s bed, looking for the continuously misplaced lyric book that he kept. She was also silently praying that she didn’t accidentally latch on to something more disgusting than the pile of fossilized dishes that seemed to be multiplying under there.
“ ‘It’s under my bed, Janey,’ ” Jane muttered to herself as she shoved a pile of video tapes off to one side. “ ‘It’s near the foot of the bed where I always put it.’ Yeah freaking right. Boy covers the entire county when he sleeps. Under the foot of his bed. Pfft!”
Jane gave up searching under the foot of the bed and began to work her way towards the head, next to the wall. She shoved blankets and assorted trash out of the way a she worked her way up. Dropping to her stomach so that she could see what was what, she immediately found her self nose to nose with the petrified corpse of a mouse.
“Oh, how totally gross,” Jane mumbled, using two fingers to pick up the desiccated rodent and fling it in the direction of the trash can. It bounced off the rim and went into the receptacle, leaving a dried out miniature arm behind to fall on the floor. Jane ignored it and went back to digging.
“Yo, Janey!” Trent’s voice called from downstairs. “Any luck?”
“I’m looking, I’m looking! Keep your britches on!” Jane shouted back as she yanked a brown paper wrapped box out from under the bed and shoved it out of the way. She spotted a familiar looking binder back by the wall, resting on a layer of dust bunnies. “I found it!”
“Get it and bring it down, would ya?” Trent called back just before he was drowned out by one of Jesse’s sour chords.
“What am I? Indiana Jones?” Jane mumbled as she elbow crawled under the bed a little in order to reach the book. She stretched out her arm and caught the binder by the corner with one finger, mumbling to herself all the while. “I swear, I’m gonna hot glue this thing to the ceiling the next time he looses it. Always gets lost under the damn bed too. Probably find Jimmy Hoffa if I look hard enou -- enu--- WHA-CHOO!!!”
Jane pulled herself out from under the bed as a cloud of dust threatened to envelope her. She dropped the binder as she sat up and rubbed at her eyes and nose, trying not to sneeze again, but to no avail.
“HAT-CHOO!!!” Jane sneezed into a discarded shirt she snatched off of the floor, then looked at what she had picked up. “Ugh, that’s worse than the rat.”
She wiped her nose on the shirt and tossed it over her shoulder. She doubted that Trent would ever notice. She glanced around for the binder and found that it had fallen on top of the brown paper wrapped box. Picking the binder up, she noticed that the return address on the package was Lawndale High. It looked like it had been opened only once or twice, then rewrapped. The tape on the package was yellow with age, and the adhesive had attracted so much dust that it couldn’t stick to anything anymore.
Huh. What would the school be sending Trent? Jane wondered as she looked over the box. Hey, this post mark is from four years ago. Wonder what it could be?
Deftly unwrapping the dusty paper, Jane pulled out a box about eighteen inches on a side. The name “Trent Lane” had been written on it with a large black marker once upon a time, but the black had faded some over time. Curiosity getting the better of her, pulled the lid of the box off and looked inside.
Sitting on the top of the various other items in the box was an expensive looking, leather bound folder with the Lawndale Lions’ team crest stamped on it in yellow. Below it, in stylized letter was the phrase “Class of95,” also in yellow.
So you did graduate, Jane thought with a smirk as she took the diploma folder out of the box and set it aside. Below the diploma folder were his graduation hat and, Jane saw as she took out the hat, his robes as well. She took the predominantly blue robe out of the box, the robe coming unfolded as she lifted it, and a small bundle of bright yellow dropped out of the recesses of the robe.
“What’s this?” Jane mumbled as she put down the robe and picked up the bundle.
She unwrapped the cloth and found a blue and gold silken rope that, when she held it up, she estimated to be about a yard and a half long. With a frown, she looked a the yellow cloth that was wrapped around the rope and found it to be a sash. Now thoroughly confused, Jane held the sash out in front of her as if she were to hang it around someone’s neck. She saw the words ‘High Honors’ stitched either side of the sash.
High Honors?? Jane was dumbfounded. She looked at the rope that now lay on the bed. That’s a Valedictorian’s braid!
“Hey, Janey!” Trent shouted from below, enduing a coughing fit.
“Yeah, I’m coming,” Jane mumbled, then switched to shouting. “Yeah, I’ll be right there!”
Jane rapidly repacked and rewrapped the box before she stuffed it back under the bed about where she had discovered it. As she grabbed the binder off of the bed, she looked around the room for a moment, trying to resolve what she had just found with what she saw around her.
Trent? My slacker brother is a brain?? Jane tried to process the discovery for a moment, but was interrupted by yet another shouted summons from below.
“So he really did graduate,” Daria said as she and Jane walked to their lockers at the end of the school day. “I thought he would have slept through something like that.”
“He not only graduated, he was top of the freaking class.” Jane sounded like she didn’t really believe what she was saying. “I found a valedictorians rope in there! And an honors sash.”
“An honors sash?” Daria asked, sounding skeptical. “Trent?”
“I don’t believe it either, but I’m telling you it’s true,” Jane said as they reached their lockers. “They guys have a gig tonight. After we get some pizza, you come over and I’ll prove it to you.”
“I’ll take you up on both of those,” Daria said as she opened her locker. “For once, this is something that I have to see to believe.”
“Are you sure that they’re not going to be home for a while?” Daria asked as she carefully stepped over the debris that covered the floor of Trent’s room.
“Positive,” Jane said, dropping onto her knees next to the bed. “They’re setting up for a gig tonight and aren’t going to be back until after midnight.”
Jane reached under the bed and once again pulled out the box that she had discovered the night before. Daria sat on the corner of the bed as Jane handed her the box and stood up, trying to dust off her knees. That she left gray streaks on her black leggings was testimony to the fact that it didn’t work too well. Meanwhile, Daria had removed the wrapping paper and had removed the lid of the box.
“Here,” Jane said, taking the diploma folder off of the top and grabbing the small yellow bundle that lay below. “Take a look at that.”
Daria unwrapped the sash and rope and held them in either hand, looking at them with open skepticism.
“Uh, I don’t mean to say this the wrong way, but are you sure that these are Trent’s?” Daria asked.
“Daria, it says so right here in the cover of the diploma,” Jane said as she picked up the folder, and handed it to Daria. “Look, class of ninety-five.”
Daria traded the diploma for the rope and sash, opening the folder as she took it. She examined the contents inside with a cocked eyebrow.
“Well, this is a Lawndale High diploma,” Daria said, tilting it so the light would hit it at a certain angle. “There’s even a watermark. Hey, what’s this?”
Daria looked closely at a small corner of paper that was protruding from behind the heavy paper of the diploma. Using her thumbnail and index finger, she pulled on the corner and removed an envelope from behind the diploma.
“Any ideas?” Daria asked, offering the envelope to Jane.
“Search me. Ransom note, maybe?” Jane asked as she took the envelope and looked at it. The end was torn open, so she reached inside with her finger and removed three foldedpages from within. She opened them, sat down, and started reading.
“Okay, something doesn’t make sense here,” Daria said. “If Trent was a high honors graduate and valedictorian, then what is he dong playing in a grunge band?”
“They’re underground alternative, now,” Jane mumbled as she flipped a page of the letter. Her eyes suddenly got extremely large. “Holy guacamole! Daria, this is his grade transcript!”
“What about it?” Daria asked, leaning over to see and setting the diploma on the bed.
“There isn’t a grade below ‘A’ on it!”
“What??“ Daria snatched the papers out of Jane’s hands as they were offered to her and began to read. “A . . . A-plus. . . A . . . A-plus . . .A-plus . . .A . . . Good grief, his GPA is almost better than mine!”
“Oh, hey you two.” Trent suddenly walked in and saw the girls sitting on his bead. “I forgot the lyric book and -- What the hell are you doing?!?”
Trent lunged forward and grabbed the diploma off of the bed and the letter out of a shocked Daria’s hands. He started stuffing the folder and transcript back into the box and grabbed the sash and rope with the other hand.
“Trent, now don’t be mad at Daria,” Jane said, standing up and coming to her friend’s defense. “I found this box yesterday when I was looking for your binder and I looked in it and --”
“Hell, Janey,” Trent said angrily. “Don’t you know enough to stay out of stuff that doesn’t belong to you?”
“Look, I’m sorry I got snoopy,” Jane said just as hotly. “But that still doesn’t explain why you kept something like this a secret!”
“Damn it, I shouldn’t have to explain anything, okay?” Trent almost yelled, then saw the shocked look on Daria’s face, and softened immediately. “Daria, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you, and I’m not mad at you. Honest. It’s just that . . .”
“Uh, that’s okay, Trent, really,” Daria said slowly as she stood up and started walking towards the door. “Jane, maybe we should . . .”
“No, wait a minute. I want an explanation here,” Jane said, standing her ground.
“Janey, just get out of my room, will you please?” Trent said as he closed the box back up.
“Jane, c’mon,” Daria urged.
Jane looked at Trent with a frown, then stomped out of the room, followed quickly by Daria.
Trent quickly rewrapped the box and set it back in his closet this time, burying it under a pile of clothes. Shaking his head, he grabbed the lyric binder off of the bed and stared at it for a moment, before throwing it at the nearest wall.
“Dammit!!” Trent swore as the pages of the book rained down around him.
“What the hell?” Jane muttered as she paced around the kitchen. “What the hell . . . Why the hell would he keep something like this a secret?”
Daria sat at the kitchen table, still feeling a little ambivalent about staying at the Lane’s until the situation had a chance to sort itself out. Despite Trent’s apology, he had really scared her. She had pretty much gotten used to seeing her dad go off, after all, he was pretty much harmless, just loud. Whatever could make Trent, the most laid back person she knew, go off like that had her worried.
“Um, maybe we should just let this one go,” Daria suggested. “Trent seemed awfully upset about it.”
“Let it go?” Jane asked, sitting down at the table with her friend. “Daria, I’ve known this guy all of my life. He slept through classes on a regular basis, and blew off school entirely from time to time. Now we find out that he was a high honors grad? Now either the school‘s standards were a whole hell of a lot lower then than they are now, or something‘s way, way off here.” Jane stood up and started pacing again. “No way I’m leaving this alone, Daria. No freaking way. I’ll burn my easel and eat my brushes first.”
“Look, Jane, I agree that this doesn’t make any sense, but --” Daria stopped, looking up as Trent walked into the kitchen.
“Hey,” Trent said sullenly. He held up the band’s lyric binder, which was looking decidedly the worse for ware with one cover hanging by a few threads and several pages peaking out of the sides. “Janey, do you know where the duct tape is?”
Jane looked at Trent with a glare that could have made an ocean recede, she was so angry. Trent could do nothing but wilt under her gaze.
“Duct tape my ass,” Jane snapped, causing Trent to wilt even further.
“There’s an image I didn’t need,” Daria mumbled.
“I want an explanation, Trent.” Jane ignored Daria and squared off against her brother.
“Yeah,” Trent sighed. He put the battered binder on the table and pulled out a chair to sit down. “Yeah, I suppose you deserve one, after what just happened.”
“You’re damned right I do!” Jane began to rant. “Trent, you’ve got grades I would, literally, have to go out and kill for! I mean, valedictorian and high honors? How could you keep something like that a secret? Never mind the logistics of the whole thing, I’m your sister for crying out loud, you idiot! How could --”
“Jane, Jane!” Daria cut her friend off, taking her by the arm and guiding her to her chair. “Just chill out, okay?”
“Okay, okay, I’m chilled,” Jane sighed, slumping in her chair.
“Trent, I think that the first thing we both want to know is ‘why?’ “ Daria said as she took her own chair again.
“Well, it’s a long story,” Trent said.
“I’ve got plenty of time,” Jane said flatly.
Trent looked up at the kitchen clock. The first set wasn’t until ten and it was barely seven.
“I guess I do too,” Trent sighed, then launched into his tale.
Trent Lane and Jesse Moreno had been almost joined at the hip since they had started their freshman year at Lawndale High. The first trimester of the school year was almost over and Jesse, with tutoring from Trent, had managed to get his grades back up before he had wound up on academic probation. They both had to wonder how the football players managed to stay off of probation, what with their lousy grades. Trent had a theory that Vice-Principal Li was running interference between them and Principal Butterfield, not to mention the school board, to keep them playing.
“You see, Jesse,” Trent was saying as they walked down the hall. He was looking at Jesse‘s report card. “I told you that you could do it.”
“Yeah, but biology’s getting tougher, man,” Jesse said as he adjusted his vest over his dark red t-shirt. “What’s with Barch, anyway, man? She’s turning into a real pain.”
“She’s having problems with her husband, from what I hear,” Trent said as he handed the report card back to his friend.
“You mean he finally realized what he married?” Jesse chuckles. Trent just had to laugh.
Their laughter didn’t last too long, though. From down the hall came the boisterous sounds of half a dozen of the newest members of the football team. The blue and yellow phalanx literally plowed through the crowd, led by new second string quarterback Tommy Sherman.
“Hey, wouldja look at this?” Sherman’s bullhorn-like voice rang out. “Brain Boy over there’s got himself a new pet.”
“Say what?” Jesse frowned.
“Man, Tommy, can’t you give it a rest for once?” Trent said. “We’re not in Lincoln any more.”
Sherman lead the group of football players over towards Trent and Jesse. When he got there, he grabbed Trent by the front of his shirt and shoved him into the lockers behind him with a crash. Trent’s books went all over the floor as he tried to shove the second string quarterback off of him. Jesse tried to intervene, but two of the other football players got in his way.
“You’re damn right this isn’t Lincoln any more, Brain Boy, this is hiiiigh school,” Sherman said, getting right up in Trent’s face. “You know what that means? In hiiiigh school, your artsy-fartsy momma ain’t gonna come and save your skinny butt next time I decide to pound you for kicks. Get me?”
Sherman pushed off of Trent and looked down, deliberately putting his foot right in the middle of one of Trent’s books. He saw Trent’s report card sitting on top of a pile of papers, bent down and snatched it up.
“Oooo, what’s this?” Sherman said mockingly as he looked over Trent’s report card. “All A’s? God, that’s sick, man.”
“Like you could even come close,” Trent said, grabbing the paper out of the quarterback’s hand.
“Let me tell you something, butt munch: All those fantastic grades are gonna get you in life is a half assed job somewhere in Loserville, flipping burgers or pumpin’ gas at some truck stop.” Tommy said, getting back in Trent’s face. “You know who I am? Tommy Sherman, best damn quarter back this loser school will ever be lucky enough to see. Tommy Sherman is going to kick ass and take names and he is going to own that football field before he graduates. And you know what he’s going to do after that?”
“I can hardly wait for you to tell me,” Trent said flatly.
“Tommy Sherman is going to go pro, is what he’s going to do,” Sherman went on as if Trent had never spoken. “He’s going to make more money than God and have more people lookin’ up to him than you’ll ever know in your whole stinkin’ life, Brain Boy.”
Sherman shoved Trent against the locker again and started to walk away, with the rest of the blue and yellow goon squad right behind him.
“You just remember that when you’re out there pumpin’ gas and fllippin’ burgers,” Sherman taunted over his shoulder as the football players left Trent and Jesse to collect the books off of the floor.
“God, that guy’s an ass,” Jesse said as he assisted Trent.
“Tell me about it.”
Trent returned home that night to find the house practically deserted. After a little searching, he found his mother sitting at her worktable in the bomb shelter-turned-basement that the previous owners of the house had put in before selling the place and disappearing to parts unknown. As usual, she had her shoeless feet up on the bench and the stereo blasting while she turned a recently fired clay vase on the fingers of one hand and painted an intricate design on it with the other.
“Hey mom,” Trent said as he walked up to the table and turned the radio down.
“Hello, son,” Amanda said airily. “How was school today?”
“Not bad. We got our report cards this morning. Jesse pulled his grades up so he’s not getting academic probation. That was pretty cool when he found out,” Trent said. “Other than that, Tommy Sherman got in my face again with the same old crap he used to pull in elementary school.”
“Well, there are people like him all over,” Amanda said, not having looked up at all. “They have their place in the world just like everyone else.”
“I got my report card, too,” Trent said, taking the folded paper out of his hip pocket and placing it in front of Amanda. “Got straight A’s first time around.”
“That’s nice, honey. Have you thought about coming to the potter’s festival in New Mexico with me next month?”
“Uh, Mom, we talked about that, remember?” Trent said with a raised eyebrow. “I have school. I can’t go traveling across the country and expect to graduate at the same time.”
“Oh, I know you like school, Trent,” Amanda said, reloading her brush from a pallet by her elbow. “But, you see, there’s more important things than just school. Life can teach you what you need to know and leave you free to let you’re soul’s creativity soar like a butterfly on the breeze.”
“Uh . . . yeah,” Trent said, knowing when his mother was going to go off on one of her tangents. He picked up his report card and started to leave. “I’m gonna go and find something to eat.”
“Okay,” Amanda said. “Oh, if you see your father anywhere, tell him I said ‘hi.’ “
Oh brother, Trent thought as he climbed the stairs.
As he got to the top of the basement stairs, the sounds of someone climbing the other set of stairs to the second floor of the house. Following the sounds, Trent headed up the second flight of stairs and checked around in the various bedrooms. He found his father unloading his camera equipment onto the bed, along with what looked to be about a weeks worth stack of mail .
“Hey there, Trent,” Vincent said, looking up for a moment. “What’s the good word?”
“Report card day,” Trent said, holding up the document and hoping for some kind of reaction. “I got straight A’s and Jesse ducked academic probation.”
“Yeah? Let‘s see,” Vincent said, taking the report and looking it over. “You know, son, you really ought to take something that lets your artistic vision come out. Something to balance this lockstep institutional education that the system’s giving you. Something to really stretch the old imagination.”
“Uh, Dad, Language Arts? Believe it or not, it actually does that. Okay, the teacher’s a little milquetoast and needs a reality check, but he isn’t too bad, all things considered. So far, all he’s had are good things to say about the stuff I give him.”
“Well, it’s a start at least. I still wish you had signed up for something else that let’s you be a little more creative.” Vincent handed Trent the report back and returned to unloading his camera bag. “Oh, by the way, the vice principal left a message on the machine. Something going on I should know about?”
“I doubt it, Dad,” Trent said as he turned and left.
Trent walked down the hall and stopped at the head of the stairs, leaning on the railing. He lifted his report card and took a good long look at it. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing from his parents. They were more worried about what he was doing to expand his creative horizons than his educational ones.
I’ve got no problems with being creative, Trent thought. But would a little acknowledgement of the academic achievements kill them?
Trent sighed and headed down the stairs, and made his way to the kitchen. In there, he found his little eleven year old sister Janey, standing on a chair and leaning over the table, little tongue sticking out from between her lips as she painted. It seemed she had taken over the kitchen table with a dozen tubes of paint and a huge piece of white construction paper. She was so intent on what she was doing that she didn’t hear Trent until he opened the refrigerator.
“Trent! Hey, you gotta take a look at this!” the eager little fifth grader said with a big smile.
“Sure, Janey. What are you working on?” Trent said as he grabbed a package of cold cuts and a jar of mayonnaise out of the fridge and closed the door.
“I saw a book in the library today on these guys that do all the weird paintings where things are like, totally out of place?” Janey said standing up in her chair so she practically towered over Trent by all of three inches. “I can’t remember what they’re called. You know the guys who do the pictures of things like a window hanging in the air with nothing around it, or something weird like that?”
“You mean surrealists?” Trent prompted as he looked slightly up at his sister.
“Yeah, those guys!” Janey said happily. “Anyway, after I looked at the book, I started thinking that I could do something like that. Then I just started painting, and lookit what I got!”
Trent looked down at the picture that Janey was working on. It bore a striking resemblance to a cruise ship being pulled by a team of elephants through a desert. Trent wasn’t sure if it was art, and he was pretty sure it wasn’t surrealist art, but his sister had made it. It was still obviously wet, and the edges of a lot of the work were a little rough, but Trent could tell that she definitely had a talent for pushing the paint around.
“Wow, Janey, that’s pretty wild. I like it,” Trent said, nodding his appreciation and meaning every word of it. “You definitely got something going here. You should stick with it.”
“Thanks Trent,” Jane said, wrapping her arms around Trent’s neck in a hug, smearing paint from her brush on his ear in the process. “You wanna paint with me? I got more paper! You can do your own!”
“Uh, maybe later, huh?” Trent shrugged. “I kinda wanna eat something and do my homework first, okay?”
“Okay,” Jane said and leaned over her painting again, and started muttering to her self. “Maybe some guys riding camels...”
Trent shook his head and walked over to the counter, putting down the cold cuts and mayo. The answering machine was in arms reach, so he hit the replay button while he searched for the bread.
“Mr. and Mrs. Lane, this is Angela Li, Vice-Principal of Laaawndale High!” the message on the machine said. “You will be most pleased to know that your son, Trent, has made the high honor roll and will be honored with a certificate to that effect at the school assembly tomorrow. You must be very proud of your son, as are we, for he has brought glory and honor to Laaawndale High. That is all. Good Day!”
Swell, Trent thought, looking down at the half completed sandwich in front of him. He had suddenly lost his appetite.
“I remember that picture,” Jane said, looking off into space as she dredged the memory up. “The Titanic of the Desert. It was the first Jane Lane Original.”
“Yeah, I know,” Trent said, looking at the table top. “You were always asking me if I wanted to paint with you, after that.”
“So your parents wanted you to peruse some kind of artistic endeavor, rather than go to high school?” Daria asked. “They went to high school, didn’t they?
“Not really,” Jane said, leaning forward on her elbows. “Mom, well . . . She pretty much grew up in one commune or another.”
“Yeah, she was hardcore into all that hippie stuff. Free love and all that,” Trent put in. “Dad had a camera in his hand ever since he was a kid. Eventually it just became pretty much all he wanted to do.”
“I guess I can see that,” Daria said.
“But that still doesn’t explain why, Trent,” Jane said. “I mean Mom, and Dad, and, I guess, me a little, well . . . I mean that couldn’t only have been it, could it?”
“No,” Trent said with a scratch of his head. “No it wasn’t, but it was the start. Or close enough.”
“Okay,” Daria said. “So what happened at the assembly?”
“Well, it’s not so much what happened at the assembly, but kind of what happened afterwards . . .
The assembly the next day had went about as he had expected. Trent was the only one in his grade to make the honor roll that trimester, the only other two were a couple of seniors. Principal Butterfield made some big speech about how students like those who made the honor roll should be an inspiration to one and all. Trent had tuned the old guy out after about a minute and a half, and Jesse had had to tell him later that Butterfield had also announced his retirement at the end of the school year, meaning that meant Li would be principal next year. Trent had to wonder what things would be like under her thumb and wished he didn’t have to find out.
Even O’Neill, the Language Arts teacher had to get in on the act, giving Trent a sappy congratulations talk right in the middle of the corridor as school was being let out. Of course, it also had to be right in front of Sherman and the Goon Squad, as Trent had come to think of them.
“I just want to say ‘congratulations,’ again!” O’Neill said, clapping Trent on the shoulders. “I’m just so proud to see one of my students make the honor roll! Just thrilled! I eager to see what else you accomplish this year, Tad!”
Trent started to turn red. It was bad enough that he couldn’t get Trent’s name right in class, but this was embarrassing. The burst of laughter from the group of football players did nothing to alleviate the blush that was climbing up from his neckline.
“Umm . . .” O’Neill looked around, confused.
“Uh, it’s Trent, Mr. O’Neill,” Trent corrected the teacher. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go.”
“Oh,” O’Neill said, looking distraught. “Oh, dear.”
Unfortunately for Trent, leaving the school meant walking right past Sherman and the Goon Squad.
“Good luck flippin’ them burgers, Brain Boy,” Sherman taunted as Trent walked out of the school.
“No, man, he ain’t gonna be flipping burgers,” Curtis Stalano, one of the Goon Squad laughed. “He an honor student! Old Tad’s gonna be baggin’ groceries at Food Lord!”
Trent did his best to tune the two football players out as he hiked his gym bag over his shoulder and walked out toward the parking lot.
Being embarrassed in front of everyone in the corridor couldn’t have been enough, Trent thought as he walked over to the bike storage racks. He has to do it right in front of that jackass Sherman!
Trent looked up and saw that O’Neill’s little powder blue four door was sitting alone only a few spots away. He frowned at the vehicle for a moment, various bits of technological mayhem presenting themselves in his mind. However, he needed time and tools for all of them, and all he had was his gym bag. But there were things that he could use in there, too.
Walking his bike over to the car, Trent leaned it up against the passenger door and opened his bag. After a little digging, he came up with the container that held a relatively fresh bar of soap. He idly thought about stuffing it in the vehicles carburetor, but that took time he probably wouldn’t have. He would have to be satisfied with scrawling something on the car with the soap itself. . . Something that jackass Sherman might write.
Down With The Man, Trent wrote in big, uneven letters across the windshield. He punctuated it with scrawls and scribbles on the side windows. Tossing the soap back in the bag, he caught sight of the honor roll certificate. Trent slowly removed the certificate, frowning at it as he did so.
“Proud to see me make the honor roll, huh?” Trent grumbled. “Eager to see what I accomplish, huh? Well, Forgetful Jones, here’s what you can do with all of that crap!”
Trent grabbed the heavy paper in both hands and ripped it in half again and again, walking around to the back of the car as he did so. Then he dropped down on one knee and wadded up the pieces in to a tight ball, then shoved the whole thing into the car’s exhaust pipe.
“You there! What are you doing?” Vice-Principal Li’s voice rang out across the parking lot.
Trent didn’t wait to be asked twice. He jumped up, grabbed his bike and started running. After a few paces, he stepped on one pedal, threw his leg over the seat, and began pumping his legs furiously to get out of Li’s sight. He didn’t stop until he had charged past Degas street and into the old shopping district, where the Moreno’s lived.
They had converted the upper floors of a three story building into a sizeable apartment. The bottom floor was an auto shop that Jesse’s father owned and ran. It didn’t do a raging great lot of business, but there were steady customers, and it brought in enough to keep the Moreno family well enough off.
Trent stashed his bike just inside the garage and headed up the stairs to find Jesse, who was in his bedroom on the third floor of the building. When he got there, he almost immediately started venting about the events of the last couple of days.
“So what did your Mom and Dad say about your report card?” Jesse asked.
“Nothing! That’s just it, man!” Trent said hotly, pacing around Jesse’s small room. “Mom starts dealing me this line about how there’s more important things that life can teach you that high school can’t, and Dad starts going on about how I should’ve taken more classes to stretch my artistic vision.”
“Whoa. Heinous,” Jesse said.
“I’ve got a few words for it other than ‘heinous,’ “ Trent grumbled as he leaned against the sill of the window and watched the people walking by below for a moment. “Damn it, Jesse. When are they going to figure out that I’m just not the creative type that they think I am. And then, after this afternoon’s assembly, that idiot O’Neill has to come up to me in the hall, right in front of Sherman and his crew, and spew a bunch of sap about how he can’t wait to see how I do over the coming year. And to top it all off, he get my name wrong and calls me Tad of all things!”
“Don’t let O’Neill get to you, man,” Jesse said as he stood up and walked over to where his friend was standing. “He probably has his own name taped to his bathroom mirror so he’ll remember it. At least he tries, man. He just points at me and says ‘uh, you.’ “
“Okay, I’ll grant you that.” Trent started pacing again. “What pisses me off the worst, though, is that guy Sherman! All through elementary school, he was a bully and a malcontent who spent more time in detention than he did in class. Now he’s a football player and Li’s backing him up, letting him slide through classes with half the grades anyone else gets. Man, I could sleep through most of those classes and still pass them!”
“Man, you‘re letting these people get to you too bad,” Jesse shook his head as he walked across the small room and opened the closet door. “Don’t let it get you down because you’re not good at the same things that your folks are good at. I mean so what? And Sherman?” Jesse waved dismissively. “We both know he’s all hot air, man.”
“Yeah. A hundred seventy five pounds of hot air who just so happens to be a blasted quarterback,” Trent said, taking Jesse’s place on the bed. “I know it’s going to come back around and bite him eventually, but it still galls me.”
“Galls me too, man,” Jesse said as he took a guitar case out of the closet and opened it up, revealing worn acoustic guitar. “Whatcha going to do about it? Report it to Butterfield?”
“What good will it do? Butterfield’s leaving at the end of the year, and Li’s taking over, so it’s not going to do any good,” Trent said as he watched Jesse sit down, place the guitar on his knee, and strum a couple of chords. “Man, I didn’t know you played the guitar.”
“Dad teaches me how, when he has some time off from the shop,” Jesse said as he tweaked a tuning knob. “When he can’t, I try and figure out what I can from a couple of books.”
Trent sat and watched for a few minutes while Jesse picked out a simple melody. It was only two or three different chords, as far as Trent could tell, but he sounded okay. Trent watched and listened intently as Jesse switched from strumming the whole chords to plucking individual strings in a pattern and went through the melody again.
“Hey, Jesse,” Trent said. “Can you show me how to do that?”
Jesse looked at the guitar, then up at his friend.
“Wait a second,” Jane interrupted, not quite believing what she had heard. “Jesse taught you how to play the guitar?”
“Nah,” Trent said with a wave of his hand. “He just showed me how to finger the few chords that he knew how to play. After that, I came home and found Mom’s old guitar in the attic. The strings were shot, but the rest of it seemed to be all right, but it was old. I took my allowance and went out and bought some strings and a couple of books on how to play.”
“But, when did you practice?” Jane asked. “Most of the time that I see you with a guitar, you’re dead to the world. I also seem to recall something about sleeping with a guitar in your hand counting as practice?”
“Hey, I was tired.” Trent shrugged.
Daria leaned on the table with her chin perched on the palm of her hand. She had always pictured Trent sleeping in class when he wasn’t sleeping at home. She could even imagine him nodding off with his head on a pile of homework from the week before. Daria hadn’t known Trent when he was going to high school, and kind of felt sorry about that. It was one thing to be ostracized for being intelligent, but the public degradation that Tommy Sherman had put him through was not something that Daria had to deal with.
“So, where was everyone else when you were teaching yourself to play?” Daria asked. “Surely they would have noticed or heard something.”
“Actually, that was pretty easy. Mom was always in the basement doing her pottery when she wasn’t half way on the other side of the planet for one thing or another. Dad wouldn’t be home for more than a few days at a stretch, when he developed his pictures.” Trent sighed, and looked at his sister. “Janey usually had the TV going, when it was working, or was painting something. She actually painted the refrigerator once, too.”
“Uh, Jane, most people use magnets,” Daria said around a smirk that threatened to be come a smile.
“Well, I thought it looked pretty good for a fifth grade kid,” said Jane with a shrug.
“Okay, so continue with this tale of intrigue,” Daria prompted again, getting the story back on track. “How did you keep this from your parents?”
“It was easy, they just didn’t care, so I stopped showing them my report cards,” Trent continued. “You see, for the rest of the year things would pretty much go like I just told you. Every time report cards would come out, I hit the honor roll again, and Tommy would give me a hard time about it. I kept tutoring Jesse, and he’d keep showing me chords and stuff, and I’d keep learning out of the books.”
“Monotonous,” Daria commented.
“No kidding. Anyway, a few weeks after my sophomore year started, I was taking that old guitar up the stairs and it slipped out of my hands. The thing just came apart completely.” Trent threw his hands in the air to illustrate. “I figured that if I wanted to keep learning to play, and keep Mom and Dad off my back, I’d have to come up with a way to pay for it.”
“What did you do?” Jane asked.
Trent just smiled.
Trent had been walking down the corridor with Jesse when Sherman, Stalano, and another member of the Goon Squad rounded a corner and collided with the two friends. Trent immediately knew that there would be trouble from the expression on Sherman’s face.
“Well, what do ya know,” Sherman growled, grabbing Trent by the arm, causing him to drop the book he was carrying. “C’mere, Brain Boy, I got a preposition for ya.”
“Hey, man,” Jesse said, starting to go after them, but was stopped by Stalano and the other goon.
“Step into my office,” Sherman said as he dragged Trent into the nearest Boys room, sending the two boys that were already in there scampering with a threat.
“Hate to break this to you, Sherman, but I don’t swing that way,” Trent said as he was shoved up against the door of one of the stalls.
“Shut your face, before I shut it for ya,” Sherman snapped. “I got a shot at making first string this year, but that ditzy Bennett ain’t playing fair. She says if I don’t bring my grade up by the next report card, I’m gonna get chucked from the team. Personally, I got better things to do, so here’s what’s gonna happen.” Sherman pulled a wadded up paper from his front pocket and stuffed it down Trent’s shirt. “You’re gonna have that done for me by tomorrow morning, or I’m gonna pound your ass into hamburger.”
Inspiration was a funny thing, Trent’s mother had told him from time to time. You could be prepared to take advantage of it, and it would never come, and sometimes it struck like a bolt from the blue when you were in no position to use it. Trent’s inspiration struck like a bolt from the blue and with perfect timing, providing he could avoid getting killed for the next few minutes.
“Twenty bucks,” Trent said with a smile.
“What?!” Sherman shouted. “I’ll pound you here and now, ya skinny little creep!”
“Go for it.” Trent looked Sherman right in the eye and did his best not to blink. “I’ll heal, but you’ll still be off the team.”
Sherman looked like he was going to have a stroke, he was so angry. Trent watched the football player’s eyes as he weighed his options, hoping that Sherman knew what side his bread was about to be buttered on. Otherwise, Trent was gong to be very sore for the next few days.
“You son of a bitch,” Sherman growled as she slammed Trent against the stall door one last time before letting him go. “All right, twenty bucks.”
“In advance,” Trent said, holding out his hand.
“Don’t push your luck, Brain Boy,” Sherman threatened. “When I get the assignment, you get your money.”
“Cool.” Trent shrugged. It was worth a shot.
“And not a word about this to anyone, or I’ll pound ya anyway, capice?” Sherman said as he turned to leave. “I got a rep to protect.”
Trent slumped against the stall door and took a deep breath as Sherman walked out of the bathroom to try and calm down. Despite the calm face he had put on, his heart was racing a mile a minute. That was just a little too close.
“Man, you okay?” Jesse said, walking into the bathroom a moment after Sherman had left.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Tent said, taking another deep breath. “And you know what?”
“I think I just figured out how I’m gonna pay for a new guitar,” Trent said as he pulled the wad of paper out from under his shirt. “And, believe it or not, I can thank Tommy Sherman for the idea.”
Trent leaned on the side of the bleachers by the football field, idly flipping through a catalog from the local music store and watching the sun climb over the Lawndale skyline. Most of the students had yet to show up , choosing to wait until after the first bell. Those who were around were usually in for some kind of detention, or had some other nefarious purpose in mine.
“Hey, Brain Boy,” Sherman said as he approached Trent from among the bleachers’ supports. “You bring it?”
“Yeah, I got it.” Trent stepped back among the supports as well. “You got the money?”
“Yeah, I got the money,” the football player said, holding out a couple of folded bills.
Trent had to smile to himself as he handed over a couple of rolled up papers. Anyone know knowing what was happening would have thought something illegal was going on.
“Somethin’ funny?” Sherman growled as Trent took his money.
“Not at all, Tommy. Just happy to be doing business with you.”
“This better be worth at least a B-minus, man, or you’ve had it,” Shermans aid, unrolling the paper and looking it over.
“Don’t worry, it is.”
“Remember, not a word to anyone,” Sherman said over his shoulder as he turned around and walked away. “I got a rep to protect.”
“Of course you do,” Trent said as he turned and headed in the opposite direction, twenty dollars richer.
The next day in the lunch line, between the mystery meat entree and the desert rack, one of the Goon Squad passed Trent a rumpled twenty for an algebra paper.
“Remember, I got a rep to protect, so keep quiet,” the big student grumbled.
“As a church mouse, Billy,” Trent said, wondering if he was brave enough for the stew that day.
Two days later, Curtis Stalano met Trent at his locker and slapped down a pair of sweat stained ten dollar bills. Trent didn’t say a word, but held up a couple of papers, folded in half.
“All right,” Stalano grinned.
“Pleasure doing business with you, Curtis,” Trent said as he closed his locker.
“Don’t tell anyone, I’ve --”
“Got a rep to protect. I understand completely,” Trent started to walk off.
“Hey,” Stalano said, falling in step with Trent. “Think you can do a history paper for my girl?”
“Sure, have her come find me at lunch,” Trent smiled. Stalano’s girl was repeating Freshman History. “I’ll even give her a discount.”
“Sounds like you had a going concern,” Daria said.
“Hey, I was getting the grades okay and making some money to boot. I figured why fight it?” Trent sat back in his chair. “After about a month, I had enough money to go down to The Guitar Zone down on Degas Street.”
“That’s where you showed me that electric guitar on Jane’s birthday,” Daria remembered.
“Yup.” Trent nodded.
“Wait a second, I thought you said your first guitar was a Fisher Price,” Jane said with a smirk.
“Janey, I was three years old. What did I know from guitars back then? I think I started chasing one of the cats with it.”
“Okay, so what was your first guitar?”
“Johnson dreadnaught acoustic six string,” Trent said. “And it was the first time that I had met Monique.”
“Oh,” Daria mumbled.
Trent cocked an eyebrow at Daria as she looked at the table top. She had never taken to Monique very well when they were introduced in Axl’s. Trent had a pretty solid idea why right from the minute the two girls were introduced. He had wanted to say something after they had left Axl’s that day, but didn’t figure that the timing would have been the greatest.
“Hey, Daria, it was nothing like that . . .”
Trent stood before the rack of guitars, studying the instruments on display and trying to make a decision on which one to get. He had about four hundred dollars, thanks to his little side business with the various members of football team and a few select others. He could have grabbed the most expensive instrument that he could afford, but he had a few other accessories in mind as well. It made sense to be frugal the first time around. After he got better, maybe he’d look for a more pricey model.
He lifted a full sized, blonde wooded, six string from the wall rack and examined it closely for a moment. Sitting down on a nearby stool, nominally on display for sale, Tent tossed the strap over his neck and strummed a couple of random chords. The notes sounded rich and full, and Trent surmised that whoever was in charge of taking care of the display kept the guitars in tune. After a moment, and a couple more random chords, Trent began to pluck the strings with thumb and forefinger, playing the melody that Jesse had shown him a year or so ago.
“That’s pretty good,” Trent heard a woman’s voice say when he finished. “You gonna buy that thing, or are you just showin’ off?”
Trent looked up and saw a brunette girl about his age down near the other end of the electric guitar displays, looking over a four stringed bass. She was dressed almost entirely in black and wore her blouse open in such a way that her navel was exposed and framed by the triangle of fabric.
“I am thinking about buying a guitar,” Trent replied as the girl walked over to where Trent was sitting. “Maybe not this particular one, though, but I’m definitely thinking about it.”
Trent went back to playing as the girl walked over to stand and listen. After a few moments , she pulled a smaller acoustic off of the rack and perched her foot on an amp, sitting the guitar across her knee. She watched Trent for a moment, the began playing along with him, harmonizing two steps higher on the scale, but definitely letting Trent lead the melody. The two improvised like that for about ten minutes, drawing the half a dozen customers in the store, as well as one of the clerks, over to watch the impromptu display. When the two came to the end of their melody, they both smiled and blushed at the scattered applause.
“Thank you, thank you, we’ll be here all week, don’t forget to tip your waitress,” the brunette said as shehung the guitar she was playing back up on the wall. “You’re pretty good, dude. Where’d you learn to play?”
“My friend Jesse got me started when he showed me that melody that I was playing,” Trent said with a shrug, resting his arms on the guitar. “Other than that, I’ve kind of taught myself. Where’d you learn?”
“Started taking lessons in seventh grade. Decided I liked it, so I kept it up. I’m more of a bass player, though.” The girl looked thoughtful for a moment. “Jesse . . . Moreno? Long hair, leather vest? Sits next to you in science class?”
“You’re in my science class?” Trent sat up, confused. Why hadn’t he seen her before?
“Second row from the back on the left. You just never turned around to look,” the brunette said, holding out her hand. “Monique Phillips.”
“Trent Lane,” he said, awkwardly shaking her hand. “You live in Lawndale long?”
“Moved here last summer.” Monique shrugged. “You?”
“For forever and a day,” Trent replied as the clerk walked up to them. Both of them raised her eyebrows slightly when they saw how green her hair was dyed.
“I hate to do this to you, but I gotta close up in a few minutes,” the clerk said. “Were you guys gong to make purchases?”
“I’m just here for some bass strings. Just a sec,” Monique said as she turned and walked over to the display.
“Sir?” She asked Trent.
“Uh, yeah, actually, I think I’ll take this one,” Trent said, looking at the guitar he was holding. “There’s a couple of other things that I want to get too.”
“Sure,” the green haired clerk said. “That one also comes with a case. I’ll go in the back and get it.”
Trent stood up with the guitar still around his neck and walked over to the string display, where he picked up two complete sets of steel strings and a small, electronic tuner. Monique was picking out her own strings.
“Nice hair,” Trent said, nodding in the direction that the clerk went.
“Yeah. . . So,” Monique said. “You need a practice partner?”
“Wouldn’t mind one. I don’t practice all that often though.”
“Could have fooled me.” Monique said as she looked Trent over for a moment. “Do you mind if I tell you something?”
“Not at all.”
“You’d look good with pierced ears.”
“This just keeps getting better and better!” Jane exclaimed as she and Daria listened to Trent’s tale. She looked briefly at Daria, who was looking at Trent with, for her, shock.
“First we find out that you’re an honor student, then we find out that Jesse got you turned onto playing guitar, now you tell us that Monique of all people got you to pierce your ears?!” Jane threw her hands up in the air. “That’s it! I’m calling Ripley and Sick, Sad World!”
“It wasn’t like that, Janey. I didn’t go right over to Axl’s and get everything done that second,” Trent frowned. “She did give me the idea and I thought about it for a while.”
“Oh, so Daria’s the impulsive one?” Jane smirked at her friend.
“Hey!” Daria gave Jane a mean look.
“Well,” Jane said, doing her best to look innocent.
“All right, Trent.” Daria turned back to the young man at the other end of the table. “I can understand where your parents wanted you to pursue something in a more creative vein. I can also understand the ostracism that you were getting from the football team, after all Tommy Sherman wasn’t even remotely a nice guy, even if you were making money off of him. But none of it really explains why? Why actively hide the fact that you were getting good grades form your family? I mean, Tommy and Curtis obviously knew what you were capable of, they were taking advantage of it to stay on the football team, and you were tutoring Jesse to boot.”
“Yes, brother of mine, do tell,” Jane said, leaning forward, eager to hear the answer. Then a thought struck her. “Unless . . .”
“Unless what?” Daria looked in askance at Jane, not quite seeing the leap she had made.
Trent, however, knew exactly what leap Jane had made.
“Yeah,” he simply said.
“What?” Daria asked.
“Monique.” Jane’s grin was ear to ear.
Daria looked back and forth between the two Lane siblings, trying to understand what she had just heard.
“You kept your grades under wraps because of a girl??” Daria asked slowly.
Trent slumped back in his chair, totally defeated, and looked up at the ceiling. Jane’s disbelieving laughter echoed slightly off of the cupboards and floor. When, after a moment, he looked back up and saw Jane wiping tears from her eyes with the heel of her hand. Daria looked as though he had just exploded any opinions she may have formed of him over the last couple of hours.
“Okay, okay, I admit that it was indirectly because of Monique,” Trent admitted, leaning his elbows back on the table.
“Indirectly?” Daria shook her head.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jane asked, still catching her breath.
“Okay, you know that Monique and I were in a band back in high school, right?” Trent asked.
Trent and Monique sat in her parents basement, tuning their guitars and waiting for a couple of other kids that they were in the process of recruiting for a band that they were trying to assemble. They had been discussing possible names for their group, but had decided to table their discussion until two or three more members could be brought in. After a while, their conversation turned to other things.
“How did I let you talk me into getting my ears pierced?” Trent asked, reaching up to scratch at the second set of silver rings that now hung from the back of his ears. “These things itch like hell!”
“Come on, man. It’s alternative.” Monique smiled. “Besides, it looks great. You want to look hot on stage, right?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Trent wasn’t too sure about the earrings though.
“Yeah. A couple of more earrings, a couple of tattoos, and you’ll be the hottest thing to hit the stage since Kurt Cobain,” Monique said, then started to chuckle at Trent’s blush.
“So, how do you think you did on that history paper?” Monique asked, changing the subject.
“Pretty good, I guess,” Trent replied, knowing that he had gotten at least an A-minus in it. “How’d you do?”
“Hopefully I got at least a B. Dad’s been getting on my case about my grades,” Monique said, crossing her arms over her bass guitar. “When’s he going to get it that everyone has problems with their grades once in a while? I mean, you have problems with your grades, right?”
“Uh . . . Once in a while, yeah.” Trent nodded, though he suspected his definition of ’problem’ was a little different than hers. “My folks don’t seem to notice all that much. They’re not too big on the grade thing.”
“My old man is. Straight A’s all the way. Graduated at the top of his class in high school and college.” Monique pulled her self upright on her chair and dropped her voice an octave. “ ‘You’ve got to know what you’re talking about and what you’re doing otherwise you’re not going to get anywhere in this world.’ “ She slumped again. “I’ve been hearing that speech twice a week since I was fourteen. It‘s like he thinks that there‘s something wrong with being a C-average student. He’s got all these big dreams about college and everything, when he knows that I don’t plan on going.”
“There’s nothing wrong with C’s as long as you’re doing the best you can,” Trent said, leaning on his own guitar. “You know, I could help you out a little, if you want. Help you study, that kind of thing.”
“Yeah, right. Like your grades are any better than mine are.” Monique smiled and shook her head. “Thanks for the offer, Trent, but my old man is my own problem. I’ll just have to deal with him the best I can.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” Trent said slowly. “I mean, I might be able to help some.”
“Trent, all a grade means is that you got through a class to someone else’s satisfaction. And all of that’s just for a diploma that you can stick up on your wall and say ‘whoopee, I made it through high school.’ Same thing with college. Another diploma on the wall and another ‘whoopee,’ “ Monique said. “Those diplomas don’t mean a damn thing, really. They just mean you got through school, not weather or not you’re any good at anything. You think my old man’s good at anything? On a good day, he can balance his check book when he’s not carping about how his bosses don’t know what they’re doing, or how the guys that work for him are screwing things up. He got kick-ass grades and he’s miserable. I get so-so grades, and God knows I’m going to be happier than he is.”
Trent looked down at his guitar for a moment. He had to admit that Monique definitely had a good point. Every time he tried to bring his grades up with his parents, it had simply crashed down around him. He wasn’t looking for much, just a little acknowledgement from people he cared about. But it just kept bringing him down every time they looked at his report card and wondered what else he was doing. Expand your creativity, let your artistic vision come out, stretch your imagination, they had told him all of these things on innumerable occasions.
On the other hand, he had to admit that his parents had a point, too. Trent definitely liked playing the guitar and had discovered over the last year or so that he had a pretty good ear for music. Maybe he had finally found that way to let his artistic vision come out, as his father had once suggested. As he thought about it, he realized that he was definitely happier when he was playing than he was bringing home a report card full of A’s.
But bringing that straight A report card home every trimester meant something special to him. Maybe to most people it just meant that he had gotten through school, but to him it meant that he could handle anything that they could throw at him. He was proud of that fact, even if his grades didn’t mean all that much to Monique or his parents, whatever their reasons.
So who said they had to know about them? He wouldn’t be keeping them a secret. He just wouldn’t bring it up any more.
“Trent?” Monique asked, seeing him staring off into space.
“You know what, you’re right,” Trent said. “The hell with the rest of the world and what they think about our grades. If they can’t deal with it, then that’s their problem. Not ours.”
“Right on, man,” Monique said just as the door bell rang upstairs. “Come on, that’ll be Jimmy. He’s bringing his drum kit, and’ll probably want help dragging it down here.”
“Right,” Trent said, removing his guitar.
As he followed Monique up the stairs, he realized something. He actually felt better than he had in a long time.
It was almost one in the morning when Trent slowly dragged himself into the house, trying not to wake his sister, who had zonked out on the sofa in front of the television. Trent had been kicking himself all the way home from Monique’s place when he realized what time it was. The band that he and Monique were putting together had spent the better part of the night trying to get a feel for each other. The drummer was pretty good, but the girl that had shown up to try the rhythm guitar part had brought a twelve pack of beer with her. She had lasted about five minutes when she realized that the rest of them had more serious pursuits in mind than getting drunk in Monique’s basement.
They had been in the process of working out some pieces that just the three of them could do, when Trent noticed the time. Realizing that his sister had been home, by herself, for some six hours, he had ran most of the way home. He had only stopped running about a block away when he saw that their mother’s beat up VW van was parked in the driveway. Apparently she had drifted back into town sometime during the day. Trent had sighed in relief as he walked the last part of the block.
Trent put his guitar case and bag down and picked up an afghan off of the chair to cover Jane with. It didn’t surprise him that his mother didn’t take Jane upstairs, after she usually let the kids flop where ever they liked. After all, she hadn’t said a word when Trent had spent six months out in a tent in the back yard when he was in junior high, why would she care if Jane crashed on the couch? He debated about heading upstairs to see if Amanda was in her room, but dismissed the idea when he heard the sounds of someone coming up the basement stairs.
“Hi, Mom,” Trent said as Amanda came into the living room. “When did you get home?”
“Hello, Trent,” Amanda said with her usual mellow tone of voice. “I got here some time late this afternoon. Jane was painting up in her room when I got home. She said that you were out with your friends.”
“Uh, yeah, I was. Sorry I got home so late,” Trent rubbed the back of his neck.
“Oh, that’s all right. We come and go as the spirit moves us,” Amanda said, finally realizing that her son had brought home something extra. “Why, Trent! Is that a guitar case?”
“Yeah, it is.”
“Oh, Trent, you’ve finally found a way to let your creativity show itself!” Amanda seemed overjoyed. “I’m so proud of you!”
Internally, Trent rolled his eyes. All his report cards ever got him was a ho hum acknowledgement, now she was jazzed about the fact that he was playing guitar.
“I’ve got an old guitar around here somewhere,” Amanda said, tapping her chin with her index finger. “Maybe I ought to go and dig it out and we can play together a little.”
“Uh, you know, I wouldn’t worry about it right now. Besides, we’d wake up Janey,” Trent said, nodding towards his unconscious sister.
“You know, you’re right. Besides, I have some bowls in the kiln that I need to keep a close eye on.” Amanda turned and headed back towards the basement stairs. “Oh, and I think Vincent is supposed to be back sometime tomorrow. If you see him . . .”
“I’ll tell him you said ‘hi,’ “ Trent said as he sat down in the big easy chair. “G’night, Mom.”
Reaching down, he pulled open his gym bag and removed a couple of text books. Even though it was late, he still had homework due in the morning, not to mention a math paper for Stalano. He knew that he’d be tired, once morning rolled around, but it would be a good kind of tired. And he could still catch a few winks in his study hall.
“. . . No one really thought to ask, after that,” Trent said, bringing his story to a close. “When I wasn’t with Monique trying to put the band together, I kept up on my homework. Sherman and some of the other football players kept hitting me up to do assignments for them, so I didn’t have too much to worry about where money was concerned. Mom and Dad were more enthused about my playing guitar than they ever were about my grades, so they never really noticed that I stopped showing them my report cards.”
“Wow,” Jane said quietly as she stared down at the table top. “I never knew. I mean, you never said anything even when you were helping me with my own homework.”
“Hey, you did all right. You knew what you were doing well enough, even if it took you a little bit.” Trent looked at his sister as the telephone started to ring. “There’s nothing wrong with getting C’s.”
“There’s nothing wrong with getting A’s, either,” Jane smirked back as she stood up and grabbed the handset off of the kitchen counter. “Yo? Oh, hey, Jesse . . . No, he’s here. We just got to talking about something and it took a while to work out . . .Okay, I’ll tell him. Later.”
“What did Jesse want?” Trent asked, then looked at the clock. It was quarter to ten. “Oh, damn! I gotta get out of here.”
“Wait, Trent. I have one quick question before you leave,” Daria said as Trent stood up.
“How come Monique never knew?” Daria asked. “They announce high honors graduates during the ceremony, and if you were valedictorian, you would have had to make a speech, right?”
“Well, I over slept,” Trent said as he turned to go.
“But they still would have announced it,” Daria contended. “Monique still would have found out, wouldn’t she?”
“Monique over slept, too,” Trent said with a sly smile as he left the kitchen. “Later.”
“Yeah, but how . . .” Jane started to ask, but Trent was already out of earshot.
“Okay, if Trent overslept, and he knew Monique never found out,” Daria started to postulate.
“And he knew that Monique overslept, too,” Jane continued the thought. “Then that would mean . . .
Daria and Jane looked at each other for a few seconds of slightly uncomfortable silence as the two girls quickly came to the same conclusion.
This story was initially posted on the Paperpusher’s Message Bboard, pretty much as it developed over the course of a few days. Though this story has no specific Beta Readers, per se, I would like to offer my thanks to all of the members of the PPMB who commented and offered suggestions in the “Trent, The Brain” thread.
Any questions, commentary, or what have you. feel free to send it to Greystar@hotmail.com.
As always, an open invite for fanart is out for anyone who is interested in putting pen to paper.