Vice Principal Killjoy
Thomas fiddled with his thumbs waiting for his grandfather to emerge from his meeting with Vice-Principal “Killjoy” Khanna.
He hadn’t come up with that nickname; it was something he had heard since his first day at Oceanic High School, in Carlsbad, California. It was whispered along the corridors and classrooms with dread, like a monster under the bed. If you did something wrong, Killjoy would get you.
Even the adults knew about her fame. Morning drop-offs at school were always a chaotic cutthroat race until Killjoy took command of the school’s entrance. Holding a metal notepad in one hand and a large coffee mug in the other, Killjoy gained control of the drop-off zone. As parents cautiously drove through the parking lot, a mere frown stopped those who wanted to cut in line and a wave of the metal notepad dissuaded those who wanted to drive into the teacher’s parking lot. Her system was very simple: students wouldn’t be admitted to school that day if their parents tried to cut in line. Simple as that.
Killjoy always wore a long overcoat over a buttoned knitted sweater, even in the summer. Her haters compared her to a barrel with legs, but many of the girls were jealous of the wavy black hair that reached her lower back and her thin manicured hands. Nobody had seen her eyes — she always wore huge sunglasses that covered half her face — but it was rumored that her eyes were the blackest black.
She was shorter than the average sophomore girl, so it was easy for her to walk among students undetected during recess, and she was silent too, like a tiger stalking prey. Someone had found out that her shoe size was around 12 or 13, but Killjoy wore rubber-soled shoes and walked in a short step gait.
In those first two weeks, Thomas had been startled three times by her sudden appearance. Only the first time had she acknowledged his presence by nodding her head at him, her chin embedding itself deeply into her large double chin.
That simple nod was enough for an introduction.
There was a story about how Killjoy stopped a speeding SUV by standing in front of it and putting her hand on the grill of the car. The incident happened before Thomas even entered school, and he knew it must have been an exaggeration, but the story went that two days later, the family who was driving the SUV, moved from the county.
Or so it was rumored.
Parents avoided her, teachers respected her, and students were completely terrified. In a nutshell, the school was completely under Killjoy’s iron grip. The Principal seemed happy to be just a figurehead, the school ran like clockwork, and there were no problems between him and Killjoy since Killjoy was always right.
Everyone told Thomas to avoid her, but he was now on her radar.
Thomas shifted in his seat, swinging his legs back and forth. He stared at Killjoy’s closed door. He shivered. This was his first visit to her office, and since he had just transferred from Ohio, the Killjoy legend hadn’t really sunk in. A boy from his class had called him a “farm boy” in front of a group of girls, and although he had let that one slip by, he couldn’t ignore “hick,” “redneck,” and all the other names that followed. He dropped his backpack and immediately a ring of onlookers gathered.
The other boy, Roger Hill, was large and strong, blond hair and blue-eyed. He was three inches taller than Thomas, and his shoulders were many inches wider. Roger was a linebacker on the school’s football team.
Thomas was the complete opposite – always on the skinny side, black hair, brown eyes. But, three years in Tae Kwon Do earned him a red belt and third place in Ohio’s junior open. Of course, nobody knew that, and Roger found out the hard way.
Thomas didn’t throw the first punch; he tried to talk first, but when the punches came he made sure to throw the last kick, and then the next one, and the next one, as Roger’s teammates jumped in to help their linebacker. Thomas was in a trance – fighting – and zooming in on one of Roger’s friends when the circle of onlookers opened and Killjoy entered the arena.
With a wave of her notepad, Killjoy dissolved the spectators and assessed the situation. Everyone was silent. Thomas tried to catch his breath.
“You three,” she said in a thick Hindu accent, “to the principal.” Then she turned to Thomas and pointed with her coffee mug. “You, follow me.”
Thomas picked up his backpack and followed the short, plump woman through the school hallways. All the kids looked at him with pity; some even waved him goodbye.
With a little kick, Killjoy opened her office door and led Thomas inside. She pointed to a chair across from her desk and waited for him to sit down before plopping in her chair. She intertwined her fingers and leaned over her desk, staring at Thomas.
Thomas tried to keep his cool and held her gaze while he counted in silence. He’d never been prone to get into trouble. He was never singled out for anything other than for his prowess in Tae Kwon Do in Ohio.
In Fullton, a town of roughly eleven thousand people, and a high school with a total two hundred students, everyone was familiar with each other. They’d actually grown up together. His old principal, Mr. Blair, had been to barbecues at his home many times. When someone got into trouble, not only did the parents know about it, within hours, the whole town heard of the news. And, like it or not, your reputation grew up with you – screwing up as a kid you’d be branded a “bad apple,” and your reputation would follow you forever.
The switch to Carlsbad, a proper city between San Diego and L.A., and a school with about three thousand students, had been difficult. It was harsh and disorienting. It seemed that everyone was trying to be individuals, trying to do something that would set them apart from each other. Clothing, attitude, friends, sports. It was all about who was who. Who did what?And, who was with whom?
Thomas had tried to keep a low profile, but once again, his prowess in Tae Kwon Do had singled him out.
And now he was sitting in front of Killjoy.
When he had counted to twenty Mississippi, Killjoy finally spoke.
“Did you throw the first punch?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Did you enticed the fight in any way?”
“E-N-T-I-C-E-D. Enticed,” she spelled. “To bait, to attract. Did you lure Roger to fight with you?”
“No. They started it.”
“Roger and his friends.”
“So you know him?”
“He’s in one of my classes.”
“And you don’t like him.”
“I don’t really know him.”
“You wanted to fight him?”
“You wanted to show off in front of the school? Build a little reputation? Show everyone who’s boss.”
“No to which question.”
“No to all of them.”
“Show me your hands.”
Thomas paused, and then extended his knuckles.
“Palms up,” Killjoy said leaning forward. He opened his hands and turned up his palms.
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Genre - YA Fantasy / Adventure
Rating – G
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