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TV Golden Globe nominees’ other halves
(MSN News, December 16, 2018, http://www.msn.com)
1. Thieves / 3
2. All School Rules Are in Effect / 37
3. Assassin / 66
4. Cipher / 117
5. Parents’ Weekend / 167
6. Townie / 207
7. Spring-cleaning / 247
8. Kissing and Kissing / 285
Acknowledgements / 405
A Reader’s Guide / 407
I think that everything, or at least the part of everything that happened to me, started with the Roman architecture mix-up. Ancient History was my first class of the day, occurring after morning chapel and roll call, which was not actually roll call but a series of announcements that took place in an enormous room with twenty-foot-high Palladian windows, rows and rows of desks with hinged tops that you lifted to store your books inside, and mahogany panels on the walls—one for each class since Ault’s founding in 1882—engraved with the name of every person who had graduated from the school. The two senior prefects led roll call, standing at a desk on a platform and calling on the people who’d signed up ahead of time to make announcements. My own desk, assigned alphabetically, was near the platform, and because I didn’t talk to my classmates who sat around me, I spent the lull before roll call listening to the prefects’ exchanges with teachers or other students or each other. The prefects’ names were Henry Thorpe and Gates Medkowski. It was my fourth week at the school, and I didn’t know much about Ault, but I did know that Gates was the first girl in Ault’s history to have been elected prefect.
The teachers’ announcements were straightforward and succinct: Please remember that your adviser request forms are due by noon on Thursday. The students’ announcements were lengthy—the longer roll call was, the shorter first period would be—and filled with double entendres. Boys’ soccer is practicing on Coates Field today, which, if you don’t know where it is, is behind the headmaster’s house, and if you still don’t know where it is, ask Fred. Where are you, Fred? You wanna raise your hand, man? There’s Fred, everyone see Fred? Okay, so Coates Field. And remember—bring your balls.
When the announcements were finished, Henry or Gates pressed a button on the side of the desk, like a doorbell, there was a ringing throughout the schoolhouse, and we all shuffled off to class. In Ancient History, we were making presentations on different topics, and I was one of the students presenting that day. From a library book, I had copied pictures of the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Baths of Diocletian, then glued the pictures onto a piece of poster board and outlined the edges with green and yellow markers. The night before, I’d stood in front of the mirror in the dorm bathroom practicing what I’d say, but then someone had come in, and I’d pretended I was washing my hands and left.
I was third; right before me was Jamie Lorison. Mrs. Van de Hoef had set a lectern in the front of the classroom, and Jamie stood behind it, clutching index cards. “It is a tribute to the genius of Roman architects,” he began, “that many of the buildings they designed more than two thousand years ago still exist today for modern peoples to visit and enjoy.”
My heart lurched. The genius of Roman architects was my topic, not Jamie’s. I had difficulty listening as he continued, though certain familiar phrases emerged: the aqueducts, which were built to transport water … the Colosseum, originally called the Flavian Amphitheater …
Mrs. Van der Hoef was standing to my left, and I leaned toward her and whispered, “Excuse me.”
She seemed not to have heard me.
“Mrs. Van der Hoef?” Then—later, the gesture seemed particularly humiliating—I reached out to touch her forearm. She was wearing a maroon silk dress with a collar and a skinny maroon belt, and I only brushed my fingers against the silk, but she drew back as if I’d pinched her. She glared at me, shook her head, and took several steps away.
“I’d like to pass around some pictures,” I heard Jamie say. He lifted a stack of books from the floor. When he opened them, I saw colored pictures of the same buildings I had copied in black-and-white and stuck to poster board.
Then his presentation ended. Until that day, I had never felt anything about Jamie Lorison, who was red-haired and skinny and breathed loudly, but as I watched him take his seat, a mild, contented expression on his face, I loathed him.
“Lee Fiora, I believe you’re next,” Mrs. Van der Hoef said.
“See, the thing is,” I began, “Maybe there’s a problem.”
I could feel my classmates looking at me with growing interest. Ault prided itself on, among other things, its teacher-student ratio, and there were only twelve of us in the class. When all their eyes were on me at once, however, that did not seem like such a small number.
“I just can’t go,” I finally said.
“I beg your pardon?” Mrs. Van der Hoef was in her late fifties, a tall, thin woman with a bony nose. I’d heard that she was the widow of a famous archeologist, not that any archeologists were famous to me.
“See, my presentation is—or it was going to be—I thought I was supposed to talk about—but maybe, now that Jamie—”
“You’re not making sense, Miss Fiora,” Mrs. van der Hoef said. “You need to speak clearly.”
“If I go, I’ll be saying the same thing as Jamie.”
“But you’re presenting on a different topic.”
“Actually, I’m talking about architecture, too.”
She walked to her desk and ran her finger down a piece of paper. I had been looking at her while we spoke, and now that she had turned away, I didn’t know what to do with my eyes. My classmates were still watching me. During the school year so far, I’d spoken in classes only when I was called on, which was not often; the other kids at Ault were enthusiastic about participating. Back in my junior high in South Bend, Indiana, many classes had felt like one-on-one discussions between the teacher and me, while the rest of the students daydreamed or doodled. Here, the fact that I did the reading didn’t distinguish me. In fact, nothing distinguished me. And now, in my most lengthy discourse to date, I was revealing myself to be strange and stupid.
“You’re not presenting on architecture,” Mrs. Van der Hoef said. “You’re presenting on athletics.”
“Athletics?” I repeated. There was no way I’d have volunteered for such a topic.
She thrust the sheet of paper at me, and there was my name, Lee Fiora—Athletics, in her writing, just below James Lorison—Architecture. We’d signed up for topics by raising our hands in class; clearly, she had misunderstood me.
“I could do athletics,” I said uncertainly. “Tomorrow I could do them.”
“Are you suggesting that the students presenting tomorrow have their time reduced on your behalf?”
“No, no, of course not. But maybe a different day, or maybe—I could do it whenever. Just not today. All I’d be able to talk about today is architecture.”
“Then you’ll be talking about architecture. Please use the lectern.”
I stared at her. “But Jamie just went.”
“Miss Fiora, you are wasting class time.”
As I stood and gathered my notebook and poster board, I thought about how coming to Ault had been an enormous error. I would never have friends; the best I’d be able to hope for from my classmates would be pity. It had already been obvious to me that I was different from them, but I’d imagined that I could lie low for a while, getting a sense of them, then reinvent myself in their image. Now I’d been uncovered.
I gripped either side of the lectern and looked down at my notes. “One of the most famous examples of Roman architecture is the Colosseum,” I began. “Historians believe that the Colosseum was called the Colosseum because of a large statue of the Colossus of Nero which was located nearby.” I looked up from my notes. The faces of my classmates were neither kind nor unkind, sympathetic nor unsympathetic, engaged nor bored.
“The Colosseum was the site of shows held by the emperor or other aristocrats. The most famous of these shows was—” I paused. Ever since childhood, I have felt the onset of tears in my chin, and, at this moment, it was shaking. But I was not going to cry in front of strangers. “Excuse me,” I said, and I left the classroom.
There was a girls’ bathroom across the hall, but I knew not to go in there because I would be too easy to find. I ducked into the stairwell and hurried down the steps to the first floor and out a side door. Outside it was sunny and cool, and with almost everyone in class, the campus felt pleasantly empty. I jogged toward my dorm. Maybe I would leave altogether: hitchhike to Boston, catch a bus, ride back home to Indiana. Fall in the Midwest would be pretty but not overly pretty—not like in New England., where they called the leaves foliage. Back in South Bend, my younger brothers would be spending the evenings kicking the soccer ball in the backyard and coming in for dinner smelling like boy-sweat; they’d be deciding on their Halloween costumes, and when my father carved the pumpkin, he would hold the knife over his head and stagger toward my brothers with a maniacal expression on his face, and as they ran shrieking into the other room, my mother would say, “Terry, quite scaring them.”
I reached the courtyard. Boussard’s dorm was one of the eight on the east side of campus, four boys’ dorms and four girls’ dorms forming a square, with granite benches in the middle. When I looked out the window of my room, I often saw couples using the benches, the boy sitting with his legs spread in front of him, the girl standing between his legs, her hand perhaps set on his shoulders briefly, before she laughed and lifted them. At this moment, only one of the benches was occupied. A girl in cowboy boots and a long skirt lay on her back, one knee propped up in a triangle, one arm slung over her eyes.
As I passed, she lifted her arm. It was Gates Medkowski. “Hey,” she said.
We almost made eye contact, but then we didn’t. It made me unsure of whether she was addressing me, which was an uncertainty I often felt when spoken to. I kept walking.
“Hey,” she said again. “Who do you think I’m taking to? We’re the only ones here.” But her voice was kind, she wasn’t making fun of me.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Are you a freshman?”
“Are you going to your dorm right now?”
I nodded again.
I assume you don’t know this, but you’re not allowed in the dorm during classes.” She swung her legs around, righting herself. “None of us are,” she said. “For Byzantine reasons that I wouldn’t even try to guess at. Seniors are allowed to roam, but roaming only means outside, the library, or the mail room, so that’s a joke.”
I said nothing.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said and began to cry.
“Oh God,” Gates said. “I didn’t mean to upset you. Here, come sit down.” She was patting the bench beside her, and then she stood, walked toward me, set one arm around my back—my shoulders were heaving—and guided me toward the bench. When we were sitting, she passed me a blue bandanna that smelled of incense; even through the blur of my tears, I was interested by the fact that she carried this accessory. I hesitated to blow my nose—my snot would be on Gates Medkowski’s bandanna—but my whole face seemed to be leaking.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Lee.” My voice was high and shaky.
“So what’s wrong? Why aren’t you in class or study hall?”
She laughed. “For some reason, I don’t think that’s true.”
When I told her what had happened, she said, “Van der Hoef likes to come off like the drafon lady. God knows why. Maybe it’s menopause. But she’s actually pretty nice most of the time.”
“I don’t think she likes me.”
“Oh, don’t worry. It’s still so early in the school year. She’ll have forgotten all about this by November.”
“But I left in the middle of class,” I said.
Gates waved one hand through the air. “Don’t even think about it,” she said. “The teachers here have seen everything. We imagine ourselves as distinct entities, but in their eyes we merge into a great mass of adolescent neediness. You know what I mean?”
I nodded, though I was pretty sure I had no idea; I’d never heard someone close to my own age talk the way she was talking.
“Ault can be a tough place,” she said. “Especially at first.”
At this, I felt a new rush of tears. She knew. I blinked several times.
“It’s like this for everyone,” she said.
I looked at her, and, as I did, I realized for the first time that she was very attractive, not pretty exactly, but striking, or maybe handsome. She was nearly six feet tall and had pale skin, fine features, eyes of such a washed-out blue they were almost gray, and a massive amount of long light brown hair that was a rough texture and unevenly cut; in places, in the sunlight, there were glints of gold in it. As we’d been talking she’d pulled it into a high, loose bun with shorter pieces of hair falling around her face. In my own experience, creating such a perfectly messy bun required a good fifteen minutes of maneuvering before a mirror. But everything about Gates seemed effortless. “I’m from Idaho and I was the biggest hayseed when I got here,” she was saying. “I practically arrived on a tractor.”
“I’m from Indiana.”
“See, you must be way cooler than I was because at least Indiana is closer to the East Coast than Idaho.”
“But people here have been to Idaho. They ski there.” I knew this because Dede Schwartz, one of my two roommates, kept on her desk a framed picture of her family standing on a snowy slope, wearing sunglasses and holding poles. When I’d asked her where it was taken, she’d said Sun Valley, and when I’d looked up Sun Valley in my atlas, I’d learned it was in Idaho.
“True,” Gates said. “But I’m not from the mountains. Anyway, the important thing to remember bout Ault is why you applied in the first place. It was for the academics, right? I don’t know where you were before, but Ault beats the hell out of the public high school in my town. As for the politics here, what can you do? There’s a lot of posturing, but it’s all kind of meaningless.”
I wasn’t certain what she meant by posturing—it made me think of a row of girls in long white nightgowns, standing up very straight and balancing hardcover books on their heads.
Gates looked at her watch, a man’s sports watch with black plastic straps. “Listen, she said. “I better get going. I have Greek second period. What’s your next class?”
“Algebra. But I left my backpack in Ancient History.”
“Just grab it when the bell rings. Don’t worry about talking to Van der Hoef. You can sort things out with her later, after you’ve both cooled down.”
She stood, and I stood, too. We started walking back toward the schoolhouse—it seemed I was not returning to South Bend after all, at least not today. We passed the roll call room, which during the school day functioned as the study hall. I wondered if any of the students were looking out the window, watching me walk with Gates Medkowski.
It was nighttime, after curfew, when Dede made the discovery. She had just finished laying out her clothes for the next morning. Every night, she set them on the floor in the shape of an actual person: shoes, then pants or else tights and a skirt then shirt, then sweater or jacket on top of the shirt. Our room was not large—though three of us shared it, I’d heard that in other years it had been used as s double—and Dede made no concession to this fact. For me and our other roommate, Sin-Jun Kim, the arrangement of Dede’s clothes necessitated as much stepping around as if a real body were on the floor. But we had not objected during the first few days of school and now Dede’s pattern was established.
The night of Dede’s discovery, our room was quiet except for the low sound of her stereo and the clicking open and shut of her dresser drawers. Sin-Jun was reading at her desk, and I was in bed already. I always climbed into bed when I got sick of studying—I wasn’t sure what else to do—and lay there under the sheets, facing the wall, my eyes shut. If someone came by to see Dede, they’d enter the room speaking in a normal voice, then see me and whisper, “Oh, sorry,” or else, “Whoops,” and I would feel strangely flattered. I sometimes pretended I was in my bed in South Bend and that the sounds of the dorm were the sounds of my family—the flushing toilet was my brother Joseph, the laugher in the hallway was my mother talking on the telephone to her sister.
Since our meeting the previous week, I’d often found myself thinking of Gates Medkowski. Before roll call, I watched her, and a few times she’d looked right at me. When we made eye contact, she smiled or said, “Hey, Lee,” before turning away, and I usually blushed, feeling caught. I didn’t necessarily want to talk to her again because I would probably be awkward, but I wanted to know things about her. I was considering whether or not Gates had a boyfriend when Dede exclaimed “What the [expletive]!”
Neither Sin-Jun nor I said anything.
“Okay, I had forty dollars in my top drawer this morning, and it is not here right now,” Dede said. “One of you guys didn’t take it, did you?”
“Of course not.” I rolled over. “Did you check your pockets?”
“It was definitely in my drawer. Someone stole money from me. I can’t believe it.”
“Is not in drawer?” Sin-Jun said. Sin-Jun was from Korea and I was still unable to gauge exactly how much English she understood. Like me, Sin-Jun had no friends, and also like me, she was generally ignored by Dede. Sometimes the two of us walked together to the dining hall, which was preferable to walking alone.
Though Dede took pains to separate herself from Sin-Jun and me, leaving earlier then we did for morning chapel or for meals, she herself was not exactly cool. At my junior high she would have been royalty, but here she was, apparently, neither rich enough nor pretty enough to be truly popular. Even I recognized that if you compared Dede to the best-looking girls at Ault, her nose was a bit rounder, her calves a bit stocky, her hair a bit, well, brown. She was a follower, literally a follower—I often saw her scurrying behind two or three other girls. The strenuousness of her efforts made me feel embarrassed for her.
“I already told you it’s not in my drawer,” Dede said. “You didn’t borrow it, did you, Sin-Jun? Like take it and plan on paying me back later? It’s okay if you did.” This was a notably kind remark on Dede’s part.
But Sin-Jun shook her head. “No borrow,” she said.
Dede exhaled disgustedly. “Great,” she said. “There’s a thief in the dorm.”
“Maybe someone else borrowed the money,” I said. “Ask Aspeth.” Aspeth Montgomery was the girl Dede followed most enthusiastically. She lived down the hall, and I assumed Dede considered it a stroke of singular misfortune that she had been assigned to live with Sin-Jun and me instead of with Aspeth.
“Aspeth would never borrow money without asking,” Dede said. “I need to tell Madame what happened.”
This was the moment when I actually believed that the money had been stolen, or at least I believed that Dede believed it. The next night at curfew, after calling out our names and checking them off the dorm list, Madame Boussard said, “It is with great displeasure that I must tell you there has been a theft.” Madame—our dorm head, the head of the French department, and a native of Paris—peered around the room through her cat’s-eye glasses, which were either (I wasn’t sure which) outdated or retro-hip. She was in her early forties, and she also wore stockings with seams, tan leather high heels with an ankle strap fastened by one leather-covered button, and skirts and blouses that emphasized her small waist and not-small backside. “I will not say how much money it was nor will I say from whom it was taken,” she continued. “If you know anything about this incident, I request that you step forward. I remind you that stealing is a major disciplinary violation and as such is punishable by expulsion.”
“How much money was it?” asked Amy Dennaker. Amy was a junior with a hoarse voice, curly red hair, and broad shoulders, and she scared me. I had spoken to her only once, when I was waiting in the common room to use the pay phone and she waked in, opened the refrigerator and said, “Whose Diet Cokes are these?” I had said, “I don’t know,” and Amy had taken one and walked up the stairs. Maybe, I thought, she was the thief.
“The amount of money is not pertinent,” Madame said. “I am telling you of the incident only so you may take precautions.”
“What, you mean like locking our doors?” Amy said and people laughed. None of the doors had locks on them.
“I urge you not to keep large sums of money in your rooms,” Madame said. “If you have ten or fifteen dollars, that is enough.” She was right about this—you didn’t need cash at Ault. Money was everywhere on campus, but it was usually invisible. You caught a glimpse of it sometimes in things that were shiny like the hood of the headmaster’s Mercedes, or the gold dome of the schoolhouse, or a girl’s long, straight blond hair. But nobody carried wallets. When you had to pay for a notebook or a pair of sweatpants at the campus store, you wrote your student ID number on a form and, later on, your parents got the bill. “If you see any unfamiliar persons in the dorm,” Madame continued, “you may report it to me. Are there other announcements?”
Dede’s friend Aspeth raised her hand. “I just want to say that whoever is leaving pubic hair in the bathroom sink, could you please clean it up? It’s really gross.”
Aspeth made this announcement every few days. It was true there were often short wiry black hairs in one of the sinks, but, clearly, Aspeth’s complaints were achieving nothing. It seemed like maybe she just liked to make them because they established her firmly in opposition to pubic hair.
“If that is it,” Madame said, “then curfew is complete.” Everyone rose from the couches and chairs and the floor to shake her hand, which was by then a ritual I had become used to.
“If we started a vigilante group, would the student activities committee give us funding?”
“I do not know,” Madame said wearily.
“Don’t worry,” Amy said. “We’ll be peaceful vigilantes.” I had seen Amy in action before—she did imitations of Madame that consisted of clutching her chest and crying out something like Zut alors! Someone has sat upon my croissant!—but I was still surprised by her joking. In chapel, the headmaster and the chaplain spoke of citizenship and integrity and the price we pay for the privileges we enjoyed. At Ault, it wasn’t just that we weren’t supposed to be bad or unethical; we weren’t even supposed to be ordinary, and stealing was worse than ordinary. It was unseemly, lacking subtlety, revealing a wish for things you did not already have.
Climbing the stairs to the second floor, I wondered if it was possible that I was the thief. What if I had opened Dede’s drawer in my sleep? Or what if I had amnesia or schzophrenia, and couldn’t even account for my own behavior? I didn’t think I had stolen the money yet it also did not seem impossible.
“We’ll get to the bottom of this tout de suite,” I heard Amy say as I reached the top step, and then someone else, someone standing much closer to me, said, “That bitch is crazy.”
I turned. Little Washington was on the steps behind me. I made a non-commital noise, to acknowledge her comment, though I wasn’t even sure if she meant Amy or Madame.
“The mouth on her,” Little added, and then I knew she was referring to Amy.
“Amy likes to kid around,” I said. I wouldn’t have minded sharing a moment with Little at Amy’s expense, but I feared doing so in the hallway, where we could be overheard.
“She ain’t funny,” Little said.
I wanted to agree—less because I actually did agree than beause I’d recently been considering trying to become friends with Little. I had first noticed her one night when we returned from formal dinner at the same time; just inside the common room, she said to no one in particular, “I gotta get these shoes off because my dogs are barking.” Little was from Pittsburgh, the only black girl in the dorm, and I’d heard that she was the daughter of a doctor and a lawyer. She was a star in cross-country and was supposed to be even better at baseball. As a sophomore she lived in a single, which normally carried a stigma—a single implied you didn’t have any friends close enough to share a room with—but Little’s blackness made her exist outside of Ault’s social strata. Not automatically, though, not in a negative way. More like, it gave her the choice of opting out without seeming like a loser.
(Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld, pages 3-14)
THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM ME:
NO MORMON MOMENT, MAGIC OF MACY*S, ALADDIN, HARRY POTTER …
NO MAGIC/SORCERY/SATANISM CAN PREVENT THE IMPENDING STOCK MARKET CRASH, WORLDWIDE.
THIS IS ANOTHER AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM ME:
No matter how many people think otherwise, Jehovah’s Witnesses really is God’s visible organization.
The wrath of Jehovah God really is upon the Mormon Church of Satan, no matter how many people think otherwise.
The stock market really is going to crash, worldwide, no matter how many people think otherwise.
No matter how many people think otherwise, Caroline Kennedy will be elected President in the year 2020;
Jim Turner of Texas will be elected Vice President;
Robert Kennedy Jr. will be nominated and confirmed U.S. Attorney General; and,
Robert Mueller will be nominated and confirmed Director of the FBI.
No power on earth has the power to prevent the above prophetic message that I write from becoming reality, not even these four people themselves. I write under inspiration from and with authority from, God, the true God, Jehovah.
cc all Mormon barristers
THIS IS ANOTHER AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM ME:
Mayor Warren Wilhelm aka Bill de Blasio is the clean-up man, if the Mormon Church of Satan/CIA succeed in their planned nuclear bomb attack on the Hudson River. His administration is already prepared to hold tribunals and immediately execute some of the “troublemakers” (30,000 bananas; nationwide: 30,000 guillotines, to be continued).
Partial List of Scapegoats, if the Mormon Church of Satan/CIA succeed in their nuclear bomb attack on the Hudson River:
Former President Barack “Hussein” Obama
Former Advisor to the President, Valerie “June” Jarrett
Former Homeland Security Director “Jeh” Johnson
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka
Minnesota Congressman FBI agent Keith “Ellison”
New York Congressman FBI agent Hakim Jeffries
Former leader of the CIA’s Black Panthers: FBI agent “Malik Zulu Shabazz”
Former Public Relations Spokesman for the Mormon Church of Satan: FBI agent “Ahmad” Corbitt (recently returned from assignment in the Dominican Republic)
[greasy looking Latino American man and African American man made up to look like former President Barack Hussein Obama wearing Joseph Smith’s white shirt] https://www.vividseats.com/theatre/hamilton-tickets.html
[Former presidential candidate Joseph Smith (1844), author of “U.S. Constitution hanging by a thread” prophecy:]
The purpose of this website is to expose the Mormon Church of Satan and all enemies of Jesus Christ the Way the Truth the Life, the Prince of Peace.
This website is also the beginning of a presidential campaign to elect Caroline Kennedy President of the United States. I prayed to Jehovah God to please, by means of His son Christ Jesus, please, arrange national events and world events in such a manner such that Caroline Kennedy is elected President of the United States. I know Jehovah God hears my prayer and will answer my prayer because that particular prayer of mine is one of my deepest desires and Jehovah God has promised me that he will satisfy all of my deepest desires. All of the information posted at this website is interconnected; directly connected to the Mormon Church of Satan’s illegal sting operation surrounding Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, and me. The illegal sting operation that encompasses every human being on earth, and has resulted in the LEGAL CASE, unlike any other, ever. The LEGAL CASE, headed to The Hague, Netherlands. cc all Mormon attorneys
Maintain Your Focus on Jesus!
Concluding talk, Jehovah’s Witnesses Convention 2015, worldwide