We watched the pumpers return to the firehouse. About two minutes later, the final, glorious summons came from the assistant principal, who was also the eighth grade teacher: "Those of you who have a project in the gym, gather in front of the doors leading from the hallway. The rest of you, return to your classes. As we streamed up the stairs and separated into two columns to do as ordered, she added in a note of stress, "Attendance will be taken again!"
I wondered briefly about the four guys from her class who got tired of waiting in the muddy warmth and decided to cut out the rest of the day at the candy shop with the soda fountain down the street.It was a popular hangout, due to this last, and any time you went in there, it was busy - mostly due to the boys who frequented it when school wasn't in session, buying comic books or movie or teen magazines when there were girls in there. It was about evenly divided by the sexes and, when it got too crowded after one or the other bought their magazine and stood around, flipping their pages as they read, the kid who worked the soda fountain generally chased them out.
I had heard them talking about cutting this afternoon. I know they hadn't heard the teacher's announcement. They were SURE that no more attendance would be taken and they would never be missed. One of the four was hesitant about going and there was some gentle bullyragging until he gave in. I also saw them walk away without so much as a glance over their shoulders, and they hadn't come back, either. Well, I wasn't going to tell anybody anything. and I knew Mari wouldn't either.
We gathered like so many "Rawhide" cattle in front of the now-nailed-shut gym doors. A faint now smoky smell drifted out from where the doors didn't quite meet under the large crossboards holding them shut, and I was sure I could see burn marks emanating up from the other side of the door and the bottom edge of it, too. The kids were reluctant to go up the rest of the way around the stairs and they hung around, chattering with one another,
"To your CLASSROOMS!"The booming voice of the assistant principal rang so loud that I clapped my hands over my ears. I saw Mari and several of the others do the same."You were told what to do once already."
The kids hastily separated and the caphony in the hall grew much less.
Since Mari and I qualified by having a project on display, there was nothing to do but sit and wait for orders.