Hey ya'll... I did some further editing of the first two chapters, which I will share soon because they have very important character references that will play out later in the story. Here is chapter 3, giving us more of Sammy's background, building the story.
School was another story completely. Even though the big check from the union hadn’t come, the other workers had pitched in money each year from a bowling league to keep Sammy in a private school. Education was important to Mr. Nichols and his friends at work made sure Sam would be able to keep attending St. Bonaventure Prep School like his father intended. He was in the 7th grade and had only a year and a half before he would be attending high school. Sam had a love/hate relationship with school like most kids. He loved learning about Science and was a whiz in Math, but going to school at St. Bonnie’s put him in an awkward social situation and it was very hard for him to make friends. Most of the kids at St. Bonaventure had parents who drove expensive cars, had important jobs, and took them on holiday to remote parts of the world that Sammy was certain he’d never see. The brown pants and white shirts that the boys were required to wear to school as uniforms didn’t keep them from making fun of his poverty. When gym class came around everyday after lunch, they would see him in the locker room in the same pair of old basketball shoes and a pair of blue shorts that were always falling off of his waistline and sing, “Smelly Sammy Nichols, smells like rotten pickles!” Then they would laugh out loud and throw jabs at him when walking by to get to the gymnasium. It was like a broken record at this point. The other kids were always comparing clothes and talking about how much this polo cost, or where their latest shoes came from. It was a constant pageant of who could wear the most expensive items to gym class. Even though he had seen it and dealt with the ridicule his whole life, deep down he dreaded going to gym and would often fake illness or injury to sit on the sidelines so he wouldn’t have to hear it from the other kids. It didn’t bother him to sit out of gym class, because he was always targeted or left behind in every game they would play. Kids could be so cruel in the 7th grade, especially when you were the kid who didn’t belong.
Sammy had one friend in school, the clock. He would play games with time whenever he couldn’t pay attention to the history lesson or concentrate enough to finish his English compositions. He could add and subtract, multiply and divide seconds, minutes, hours and days in a flash. He would play games with himself and figure out how much time exactly it was going to be until the kick off of the next Super Bowl, or until the day he would graduate the 8th grade. He knew all of his family members birthdays to the exact time of birth and would think about how much time exactly was between his twin sisters and Grandma Nichols, or his mom and Uncle Charlie on his dad’s side of the family. It was a constant game in his mind, and his notebooks were full of complex number equations and brilliant pictures of clocks. He carried his father’s wristwatch in his pocket at all times and kept it wound to the proper time always. Time was the one thing Sammy could count on in life and he always knew exactly how much time there was until the 3 o’clock bell rang.
“Samuel Benjamin Nichols…. Samuel Benjamin Nichols! Samuel…. Benjamin…. Nichols!!! Do you hear me?” Mr. Lanski, the history teacher said with increasing volume until he broke Sammy’s spell. “Two hours, six minutes, thirty four seconds sir… thirty three… thirty two.” Sammy replied, giving the 3 o’clock countdown as the tall, dark haired teacher approached his desk in the corner of the room. He lifted Sam’s notebook and slowly turned through the pages of scribbles, numbers and clock drawings. “I see we are concerning ourselves with the important facts of HISTORY Mr. Nichols,” he said sternly, emphasizing the word history loudly as the rest of the class chuckled. Sam squirmed in his seat a bit as the boney fingers of Mr. Lanski’s hands closed the notebook with a “Bang!”. “Tell me Mr. Nichols…about the importance of the Spanish American War, which we have been discussing for the past thirty minutes in this lovely classroom.” He spoke directly at him as he peered his dark, cold eyes through the tiny spectacles that rested on the end of his long nose. “Tell me, in your words…what it did to Spanish Imperialism? I can wait while you collect your precious thoughts young lad.” Sam felt his adam’s apple swell up, and he swallowed deeply as every one in the room stared at him. Most of the kids were making faces and jeering quietly at him behind the teacher’s back. He started, “ Well… um… the Spanish um… Imperialism was affected by the war… because…. Um… well… they didn’t like the Americans?... and …” “Stop right there! Now, seeing as you are so good at wasting my time and precious breath, I will waste some of yours. Please come see me at 3pm where we will catch up on your notes for two hours, After School!”
“Oh No! Not detention…no, no, no, no.” Sammy thought as he raced down the hallway to get back to Mr. Lanski’s room to serve his punishment. Detention would get him home two hours late from school and he was already grounded tonight from coming home late the previous night. This was going to cost him big time. He grabbed the door frame to stop himself as he turned the corner to the room. He had been running quickly and was trying to quietly catch his breath before facing the impending doom. His teacher hadn’t even looked up from the evening paper when he came in, and continued to read silently for thirty seconds more while Sammy stood just inside the door. “Have a seat my boy,” he said without lifting his eyes from the paper. Sammy squeezed into a desk in the front of the room. “Now, take out your history book and open to chapter 19. Tell me what it says?” “Spanish American War.” Sam eeked out quietly. “Oh good, you are paying attention to History now, very good indeed.” Mr. Lanski said very sarcastically. “I would like you to start at the top of the chapter and copy, by hand, the whole chapter into your notebook.”
“By the end you will have a firm grasp of the importance of the war…AND, Mr. Nichols, you will know the importance of paying attention in my class! Now, hurry on, I’d like to get home at a reasonable hour.”
Sam’s hands cramped continually and he went through half a box of pencils in those two hours as he wrote, word for word, what was in the text book. The teacher continued reading the paper and drinking coffee without once looking up or checking on his work. It was a terrible silence in the whole school, only broken by feverish movement of pencil lead on paper and the occasional shuffling of newspaper. There was also the terrible sound of Mr. Lanski slurping his black beverage through his thin lips and the ticking clock felt like a time bomb between Sam’s ears. By the time he finished, his whole right arm was shaking and the notes were hardly legible. It was 5pm exactly. “Finished sir,” he said, looking up dizzily from the notes on the desk.
“Chop. Chop. Well done. Have a good night,” was the only thing the tall teacher said. He didn’t look at the book or the work Sammy had raced so diligently to complete. He didn’t ask any questions about the war. He just picked up his paper and briefcase and led Sammy out of the back doors of the school without a word. He then locked the school door, got in his car, and sped off into the night. Sam, having missed the bus, walked home through South Buffalo in the dark, desolate night. It was 7pm by the time he had gotten home. His mother had already received a call from Mr. Lanski during the day warning her that Sammy would be staying after for detention. When he walked in the door, she pointed him directly to his room and said, “ Three more days ought to teach you to pay attention to your teachers.” Sammy collapsed in his bed and fell asleep with his clothes on.