Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Wordy Gift #6: Inverse

Alright. So Camp NaNoWriMo is on the move. I'm currently writing "Inverse." So below the cut is the long, lengthy, (unedited) first chapter of "Inverse." It is going to be interesting... Let's see...

"Inverse" is YA Dystopia. It tells the story of a society, which is the inverted version of ours. It is told from the perspective of Jazz, a young student living in a small town located in California.

This is the first chapter. 

Chapter 1.

Girls run the world.

               From the beginning of this young country, the first U.S. President is Abigail Adams. A wise woman, she has led the country through terrible times. Her wise advice and decisions help prevent wars from breaking out. Thousands of girls wish to be just like her—a woman in a powerful position who seems to not bend in the furious words of the Brits.
               The most recent U.S. President is an African American woman. Her sense of humor is wicked enough to send sparks throughout her opponent’s political party. Like President Adams all over again, millions of American girls proclaim their wishes to become the President.
               I, on the other hand, have to settle as the First Gentleman.
               Even before Abigail Adams, there is hundreds, thousands of ladies who changed the world. There are few mentions of men, and it takes hours upon hours to find the small details in the footnotes. Madam Curie’s husband gets little recognition and Rosalind—the French lady—gets complete credit for discovering the double helix of DNA.
               Most of the Nobel Prize winners are women.
               History tells me that women changed the world, shaping it into the way it is today. I have to agree, for there is no clear proof that says otherwise. Historians may argue all they like, but I don’t have the time to search for the truest answers.
               I live in one of middle class homes. You know the ones. They are those houses that are on the brink of disrepair, because my parents don’t have the time to find a worker to fix the roof. Between their job at the airport and their job of minding me (bossing me around, to be accurate), they don’t have the time to do anything.
               My name is Jazz. It isn’t named after jazz, as in the music genre. No, my mother had the final vote when she named me after Jasmine. Jasmine. Jazz. She took the first sound out of Jasmine to form my name.
               Good o’ Dad would had called me John. After President Adam’s husband, John Adams. His name is Kyle. At least, he had a normal name.
               I don’t.
               I used to have people say, “Jazz? Like music jazz?” I always shake my head no and calmly correct them that it is after Princess Jasmine who managed to fight her way out of the Evil Jafar’s clutches. All while saving Aladdin from drowning in sand. She does it with a sword, and her fierce cape blows right behind her—like a hero from the old stories back in ancient times.
               Jazz. Good o’ Jazz. The girls would take one look at me. If they stare too long, I will walk on faster—my heart racing. The scariest thing anyone heard of is a girl in a dark alleyway with a metal baseball bat. I will walk the other way faster than anyone can blink.
               “Hey, Jazz,” says my good friend, John. He is the lucky one. At least, he isn’t named after a cartoon character from Walt Disney’s company. It is embarrassing to be named after a cartoon character. Historical figure? Cool. Hope you get named after the few English kings. But cartoon character? The infrequency of that happening is so slim that everyone gives me weird looks whenever “Jasmine” comes up in a conversation.
               It is a small town. If you tell one person your social security number, by tomorrow the whole town can do a little identical theft on your good name. You’ll end up having to fill out government papers by lunch. Taxes are hell.
               “Hey, John,” I nod. I quickly look around the hallways, checking out to see if there are anything interesting. Other than the usual “Welcome Back To School” posters on the walls, everything is the same. I keep my eyes on that football poster with a picture of two girls in heavy uniforms gritting their teeth at each other.
               “Nice, isn’t it?” says John, following my gaze. “Maybe this year, we have a chance to win. Remember last year? The tigers crushed us with their teeth. Those girls could really play football”—he shakes his head and shivers—“and eat a human being for a snack.”
               “Yeah,” I agree. “They are brutal.”
               It is no secret that the nearby high school has a little rivalry with our football team. The tigers gets resentful of the fact when the lionesses won for three years straight. Perhaps their anger built up the point that the tigers crushed the lionesses.
               Nevertheless, both teams are brutal. My male and female classmates are wise to stay away from them. Each girl is over 5 feet and 10 inches. The lightest one perhaps weighs one hundred and eighty pounds. They all eat like it is the end of days. I’d seen the lioness quarterback bring two big sacks of sandwiches and claim it is all for snack time. “A little something to sneak between the periods,” she winked.
               I can eat those two paper lunch bags in a single day. But as a snack? No way, I will hurl out my guts before I eat any of that stuff.
               “You want to go to class?”
               Feeling the press of my bladder, I shake my head. “Restroom first.”
               “Okay,” he shrugs, gripping his backpack straps. “I’ll go with you.”
               We get out together with ten minutes to spare. A bunch of cheerleaders—girls and boys—are blocking the entrance to put up some stupid poster for homecoming, which irritates John to hell. He mutters about a certain location where that poster could be placed. I don’t reply, because that will only prompt John to spill his thoughts about homecoming.
               “So AP Biology is where? I heard that the teacher is going to be cruel. Especially after those stupid budget cuts for labs and things.”
               I look over his shoulder and run my eyes over the map. Building 1000 is my target, but I can’t find it anywhere. It should be there, but all I see is 900 building. There is 800. But where is 1000?
               “Hey, bros,” chuckles Even, his high voice cracking. He is one of the unlucky kids to be named after the Bible. His neatly combed hair is starting to come out of its uniformed shape. With a soft face and short height, I could mistake Even for a girl. His clothes, on the other hand, screams boy. The cologne completes the masculine image. “What are you doing?”
               “Know where 1014 is at?”
               “Room, you mean?” He glances at John and nods. “Room, room, room. I think the building is on the west”—his hands daintily roam over John’s wrist and points to that mysterious Building 1000—“Yep! There is it. It is there.”
               “We can see that,” I say, cutting into John’s dreamy face. I snap my fingers in front of John’s nose. “John? John? You awake?”
               “Yeah,” he wrinkles his nose. He waves away my hand and readjusts his grip on the map. “You don’t have to do that.”
               “Alright. Just don’t fall asleep on me,” I reply smoothly, probably saving his butt. I think Even is the last person who needs to know about John’s secret. “You and your night owls. You keep hooting all night, don’t you?”
               His stony look at me tells me he isn’t amused. At all.
               I shrug.
               We head to Even’s locker. He bends down and grabs some books. From what I see, they appear to be Algebra II textbooks. I did those last year, and I fully well know that Even expects me to hand over my old homework. I have that stack ready to go at home. He’ll have to pick them up later.
               I eye any onlookers. There are some rowdy girls who are talking boastfully and loudly. The football players are shoving each other against the lockers, shaking off any anxiety before tonight’s—I think it is tonight’s—game. Some guys are crowding around a locker, just chatting and probably gossiping. Those are the popular kids—the crowd I can never get into. I’m sure I look alright—or at least, better Shaun O’Hare over there—but I know I can never talk in front of such a big group and not have a huge panic attack.
               Then Even shuts his locker and says, “I’m done. I’ll show up to…” He looks to John and cocks his head. “What room is it again?”
               “1014,” whispers John.
               I doubt Even heard his timid words.
               “1014,” I say loudly. I’m sure that I’m so loud that all of the football players who are arm wrestling and kicking locker doors can hear me. 1014. Room 1014. Now everyone knows where my homeroom is at.
               “Sweet,” comments Even.
               John and I exchange a glance. How would Even know that?
               Even sighs. “You don’t know who that is, do it?”
               We give him blank stares.
               “Idiots. Pure idiots,” groans Even. “It is the principal’s office.”
               “Ha. Ha.” I glare at her. “So who is it really?”
               “Grammar issue right there,” tisks Even, wagging his index finger at me. “Whose. Not who. The office—“ He stops when he see our identical peeved look. “You don’t want to hear this, do you?”
               “You’re the Grammar Expert.” I mockingly salute him, my voice also cracking. I almost fail to pull off my next words. “But I’m the expert at selectively choosing what to hear and not to hear.”
               John, blessed his dreamy stare again, is wisely not saying anything. Then again, if I can only wipe that stupid look off his face, then maybe he would be so much smarter than he is right now. Around Even, John acts completely stupid even though he is in advanced, advanced math class and a bunch of honors/AP classes that I can’t keep straight for the dear life of me.
               Some girl slams right into Even, nearly forcing him to fall. She throws a smirk at us, but her cruel eyes especially lingers on Even. I want to go after that girl with my fists blazing, but John—snapping out of his lazy daydreams—grab the back of my backpack and whispers, “Jazz, it isn’t worth it.”
               “She just—“
               Even forces a smile on his face. “It is okay, Jazz. Jazz, chill it! Come on, it is the first day of school. Don’t be too moody. First day. The sun is out. The birds are”—Even’s voice goes fainter and fainter”—chirping. Let’s not go crazy over a girl.” Even looks at me. “It is just a girl.”
               I shut myself up.
               If this happens every day, then Even is going to get a lot of bruises. I hate how there is over one hundred and eighty days in school. And the first hasn’t even started yet! I wish I have eyes on the back of my head, so I can glare the girl for a very, very, very long time.
               It seems like the prejudice against Even hasn’t been forgotten. Not one bit.


               It turns out the AP Biology is promised to be the hardest class I’d ever taken in the history of my entire life. I don’t know, because that teacher, who is sitting on top of bean bag in the corner of the room, seems to have the squintiest eyes I’d even seen. Every ten seconds or so, he has to squint to see us. I’m beginning to nickname him “The Squint.”
               I take my seat next to John. Even isn’t in this class, because he has French this period. I hope he doesn’t get into too much trouble. Everyone—well, almost everyone—is afraid of Even or disgusted by even. Sometimes even a little bit of both. Hate and fear. They mix around with thoughts and cloud a lot of people’s judgement. From the words and looks caused by Even’s very appearance in a conversation or in person, you would expect Even to be the Antichrist.
               John and I pass notes. Not surprisingly, the teacher barely takes note of it. He goes on and on about the rewards of learning Biology. In my opinion—which I’d made the second he opened his mouth—there are no rewards of learning Biology. There are hundreds of more useful topics, and unfortunately, because of college requirements and that stupid A to G requirement made by the oh-so-helpful school district and indirectly, the California Board of Education, I have to take this class if I want to go somewhere in the world.
               Of course, I have a backup plan. It involves with a very smart and ambitious girl, who might just become the next CEO or CFO of a Fortune 500 company. I could be the houseman for the rest of my life, hidden away from the world at my (actually, my wife’s) beach house (and if I aim a bit higher, private island).
               I write: So wut do u think of the Squint?
               He looks at it and scratches out his reply in his usual chicken scratch. It is so ugly that I have to cross my eyes and lower my head to it to read it. I whisper, “Your penmanship hasn’t improved.”
               “Shut up,” he mouths back.
               The Biology teacher hits the desk with his palm. “Students! Students! Order! Be quiet. When I’m talking, I should be given respect.”
               I think I have a hundred perfect replies to that.
               No, no, no. That is wrong.
               I have 99 replies and all of them are inappropriate for this moment.
               John has written: Who is the Squint?
               I turn the scratch paper 90 degrees and write right over it. It makes it harder for anyone to read our notes, especially the Squint.
               I quickly scratch out: The Squint is the dude who demanded respect. Squinty eyes. Get it? Besides, I know 99 places where he can shove respect into.
               He answers back: Does all of them begin with a letter A?
               I snort. He knows me too well.
               “Boys! Girls! Quiet!”
               For what it is worth, it seems that the Squint’s hearing is better than his eyes. Watching him talk about mitosis and the wonderful things it do, I scribble my words onto the note, hoping there is a little more room for me to write all of my thoughts out.
               There is.
               “What is the Squint’s real name?”
               That is it. It fits on that tiny square piece of paper I ripped out of my backpack. I think it is originally part of a set of post-its before it got shoved around in my bag. It happens. I still haven’t cleaned it from last year. There is that weird piece of orange thing that hangs onto the sticky part of the note. I try not to ask myself what it is.
               John risks it. “I already forgotten it.”
               Unfortunately, the gamble is lost.
               The Squint walks right next to John, having little trouble surfing through the wicked aisles and desks with ease. He points right at him and barks, “You! What is your name?”
               John takes a brief glance at me. Then he gives up after a long pause. “Sorry, sir. My name is John Adams Vasquez.”
               “A warning to you. Next will be a detention!” snaps the Squint, pulling his white lab coat even tighter around his rotund body.
               I shove the note inside of my hoodie pocket, ripping it into tiny pieces as silently as possible. The last thing I want is for the Squint to read it in front of class. Writing trash about the teacher is one thing. Getting caught is another. No one—and I repeat this with the gravest concern I possess—no one should ever read the trash John and I write.
               “John Adams, isn’t that correct?”
               “Yes, sir,” nods John, his voice of false politeness. There is that wideness in his eyes that is way too overdone. John has been practicing his “look of pure innocence.” To me, it is the face of pure horror. Though, I don’t tell him that. His younger sister has been bribing me with these sweetest chocolate chip cookies to not tell him, giggling while she is at it.
               “Ahh, young Abigail and her husband, John,” he sighs, sitting down in front of us. We are in the back of the room—at the back of class—for a reason. It is the place where we can lay low. Teachers don’t usually see anything. “Gather around, everyone. This is one of the most important history lessons I will ever give.” Then he gives a little laugh, a small giggle as if sharing an inside joke with us all. “And one of the best and the worst.”
               He then continues, his seriousness coming up with an extra notch. “We all know the history of Abigail Adams. She has been in the front of war with Advisor Washington by her side. She gained control of the little country, which is now—“
               “The United States,” mutters nearly everyone.
               Still, he pays no attention of it despite his fine hearing. “—The United States of America.”
               I can practically start reciting the Pledge right now. Ignoring the eyes on me—or correctly, on the Squint—I mouth, “And to the Republic for which it stands. One nation, under God. Under liberty and justice for all.”
               I want to snort at these lies. It is not justice at all. The United States of America is far, far, far from perfect. There are hundreds of these little flaws. There are fools who believe in the system. Like the education system, the system is broken. There are always new laws and rules coming and going—all of them claiming to patch up the system, but that isn’t true.
               The Squint probably talks on and on about John Adams—how he helped give advice President Adams during sensitive times of the greatest concern. Then he praises her for managing to be both the president and a mother at the same time. John, of course, helped, but that isn’t an important detail. It is the footnote of the longest biography of Abigail Adams in history—which ends at page 973. The list of references goes on for another two hundred and fifty pages before it finally stops to the biographer’s acknowledgements and further notes.
               I only read that biography because of last summer. It was a boring year with hazy days of summer. Even then, I wish summer had lasted forever. My father is an excellent cook. I wish he could cook for me all year long. I would sell my soul to the fiery pits of hell if I could have a taste of that strawberry cheesecake with just the right amount of honey and funnel cake again. He only makes those about every three years. He made that rare cake that last summer.
               I would relive the day for the rest of my life, if I could.
               It was a perfect day.
               “You!” says the Squint.
               I jump in my seat. I hate how almost everyone’s eyes—that Asian girl at the front corner desk is writing in her notebook without a care—stares at me with a blank expression on their face. I hate attention. I hate it.
               “Yes?” I stammer, pleased I manage to get one word out of my stupid mouth. I quickly stomp my feet and try to make as much noise as possible. I cough loudly and vigorously.
               “What is your name?” he asks, ignoring my one-man show.
               “Jazz,” I answer with a quick smile—that I seriously hope is charming not sneaky or sly. To be polite, I add, “Sir.”
               “Is that a nickname?”
               “No,” I shake my head. “It is my name. On my driver’s license. And social security card along with my passport and birth certificate. It isn’t short for anything.” I seriously should put my foot in my own mouth, because I’m talking way more than I should be. Way more.
               “Are you trying to be a smart idiot?”
               I bite my lip to point out that contradiction. That oxymoron, to be specific. It would be even worse if I say that. That would guarantee me as a “smart idiot” for the rest of the school year. There is no way I can shake that name off.
               “No, sir.”

               “Good,” he nods. “It would be smart for you to seen but not heard.” 

And that is it! So tell me what you think of it in the comments below. I'm going to go back and write the rest of the book! Fun times! 

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