I have an agreement in place. Had it since sixth grade. My crew is known around these parts, and not for their community service. We got some guys who cause trouble. Maybe I’m one of them, I don’t know. Anyway, I got into some trouble back in sixth grade. Was suspended. Probably should’ve been expelled. The resource officer, he’s a good guy, cut a deal with the school and my Ma. I stay outta trouble, keep my nose clean, I can stay.
I need this school. How am I gonna break outta this neighborhood without a degree?
So here I sit, an eighth grader now, waiting for my weekly appointment with Officer Smith. The office staff knows why I’m here. They smile at me but they keep their distance. The only one up here who pays me any mind is the dog, Wesson. At the moment Officer Smith is on the phone. His office door is only slightly ajar. Wesson is sitting in the hallway just outside the room, watching me. He’s acting like he doesn’t care, head on his paws. But I know if I move, he’s gonna notice. He may even growl. He’s on duty.
The door beside me swings open. “Juan, my man, c’mon in,” Smith says. He moves aside to let me in. The office they have him in is smaller than any other room on campus. It’s about the size of my bedroom at home. Has nicer furniture too. Wesson follows me in and lays beside the chair waiting for me on the other side of the desk from Smith.
“How’s the first week shaping up?” Smith asks.
“It’s alright, sir.” I know enough to answer him in proper English. He gets on my case about speaking street. He keeps telling me I’m too smart to sound so stupid all the time.
“Good, good. What kind of grades should I be anticipating this year?” Part of our deal is passing grades, we both know that. No referrals, no dress code violations, nothing “gang affiliated”, and passing grades. Otherwise I’m out on my ass.
“C’s or better.”
“Should be better,” he says.
I shrug. Better ain’t good for my image. We both know that. I don’t say it.
“What class are we most looking forward to this year?” he asks.
I don’t even have to think about that but I pretend like I do. Kids like me don’t usually even go to class, nevermind have a favorite. “English,” I tell him.
“That was your best class last year,” he says. Like I didn’t already know that. I shrug again. “Would be nice for you to earn an A this year. Last year you were so close.”
Last year I actually made the honor roll fourth quarter. I’m usually pretty careful about shit like that. The guys all go to this school. I don’t have classes with most of them, so I’m usually safe. But they’ll bring the whole school together to hand out those pieces of paper. I usually get a few C’s, enough that it’s not a problem. Last year fourth quarter I had B’s all the way across. I made sure to ditch the day of the assembly, said I was sick. That was a close one. I don’t wanna do that again.
“Maybe,” I answer.
Smith clicks away on his computer for a second. I know what he’s doing. He’s checking the system. Our buddy-buddy relationship only lasts so long as I behave. He’s checking to make sure none of the teachers have put in a complaint. He pulls his fingers back from the keyboard and smiles at me. “Alright, if you don’t need anything from me then we are all set here. I’ll see you next week.”
I stand up, quick, and head for the door. I hate these meetings.