“And that,” Mr. Deno finished, “is why grades don’t matter. School is a prison that’s trying to make you the person you should be instead of the person you want to be. So give up those dreams of psychology, changing the world, and becoming Instagram famous! You kids are forced to focus on grades that don’t matter and classes that won’t do anything to help you when you’re thirty-five, homeless, and eating candy wrappers the little kids drop in the sewers.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. Another lecture? This one doesn’t even make sense!
“Mr. Deno?” John raised his hand. “So, why are you in school?”
Mr. Deno smiled slightly. “I enjoy seeing kids suffer. You see, I come from a long line of dictators, Russian spies, and hitmen from the darkest corners of the Earth. My father is Kim Jong Un and my mother is one of the top five most dangerous Russian assassins; so I tried to follow in their path...but I fell just a little short.”
The class laughed nervously, not knowing if Mr. Deno was serious.
Daniel rolled his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Jake whispered.
“Every day this guy gives some weird lecture about life, but who cares? This is just an English class!”
Jake opened his mouth, but the sound of the bell stopped him. The class stood up and pushed in their seats.
“Alright, class,” Mr. Deno began, “off to lunch with you. Enjoy your gruel and I’ll see you when you return as toxic mutants.”
Daniel groaned. “My god, he’s so annoying!”
“As are you, Daniel,” Mr. Deno replied calmly.
Jake sighed. “Come on, Daniel, let’s just go to lunch.”
“No! Screw this!” Daniel yelled. “I gave you a perfect essay and you gave me a C+! What did I do to you?”
Mr. Deno looked into his eyes with no emotion. “The assignment was to write a memoir about one of your fears. You gave me a story that could’ve been written by Stephenie Meyers.” He then turned to Jake. ”Seriously, Jake, when you edited his piece, did you just put smiley faces on it?”
Jake smirked. “I edited his story as best as I could.”
Mr. Deno nodded. “Well, maybe I should teach you how to edit for the tenth time.”
“He did!” Daniel cried, “I can give you the paper right now and show you!”
“I don’t need to see your Twilight fan fiction, Daniel.”
“Are you kidding me?” Daniel’s eyes widened. “I’m not that bad of a writer!”
“Not to mention that you have the attitude of...who’s that person you kids like? Mary Jane, is it?”
“Mary Jane isn’t a person! It’s weed!”
“So, you’re doing drugs?” Mr. Deno chuckled. “Ah, that’s why you’re so stupid. It all makes sense now.”
“I don’t do drugs!” Daniel yelled.
“Dude, we’re leaving.” Jake grabbed Daniel’s arm and dragged him into the hallway away from Mr. Deno’s heartless smile. After they were a few feet away from the classroom, Jake let go of Daniel and walked down the hall.
“Dude,” Jake chuckled, “I thought you were about to fight him.”
“This isn’t a joke!” Daniel said, “I want to fight him! He’s a pain in the butt and you know it!”
“I know, but you have to deal with it.”
“Deal with it? He dropped your grade down a whole letter because you only wrote nine and a half pages instead of ten!”
Jake slowed his walking, looking down at the ground. “I remember that; I was sick, too. Hell, he even saw me throw up right outside the classroom!”
“He didn’t even let you go to the nurse! All he said was ‘that’s your body punishing you for not liking Shakespeare.’ That’s illegal! He can’t do that!”
Jake sighed and looked up from the ground as they walked down the side staircase. “I agree with you; Deno is a terrible teacher. The problem is that we can’t do anything; administration doesn’t listen to students!”
Daniel stopped, his eyes widening with surprise and pleasure. He grinned. “I have an idea.”
“What is it?”
“Administration won’t listen to us if we don’t have anything against Deno, right?”
“So, what if we gave them proof of who Deno really is?”
Jake leaned back, confused. “I don’t know where you’re going with this.”
“Coronation is tonight, right?”
“Yeah, aren’t we going together?”
“Yeah, but don’t say it like that, that sounds gay.”
“Does that really matter?”
“Just shut up and listen! So, we’re going to the dance, right? We’ll stay there for, like, an hour or two so no one will be suspicious when we leave.”
Jake raised an eyebrow. “Um...where will we be going?”
“We’ll leave the dance and go upstairs to Deno’s classroom. Since everyone is going to be in the gym, no one’s going to be on the second floor. This gives us a perfect opportunity to go to Deno’s classroom and give him something special…”
Daniel kneeled down as he unzipped his backpack. Jake looked over his shoulder, watching him sift through books and papers. After a few moments, Daniel held a medium sized bag of weed.
Jake’s eyes widened. “Are you really going to give that up?” He whispered.
Daniel shrugged. “I mean, we could always get more from Chris since we’re his favorites. Besides, no way in hell am I giving up my coke!” Daniel zipped up his backpack. “Come on, let’s go to lunch.”
Daniel and Jake leaned against the wall of the school gym. They were dressed in matching suits as if they were Men in Black. Daniel looked at Mr. Deno’s odd attire of a gray sweatshirt and black dress pants.
“Look at that piece of trash,” Daniel said.
Jake smirked as his head was bumping to the beat of Hotline Bling. He turned to Daniel. “When are we going?”
Daniel looked at his watch to see it was 7:45. He took one last look to see if any teachers were watching the exit; they were in the clear. “Now seems like the perfect opportunity.”
As they walked casually to the large door, Jake kept looking back.
Daniel turned around. “Jake, what are you doing?” he spat.
“Is this because you want to dance with Shanelle?”
“No! I’m doing this for our safety!”
“Well, we’re already out of the dance; we’re not going back now.”
Jake sighed. Daniel patted his back. “Come on man, this is more important. Trust me, when this is done, we’ll be freakin’ heroes.”
“I hope this works.”
“It will,” Daniel smiled sinisterly.
They walked down the hallway to the elevator and took it to the second floor.
“Can they really fire a teacher if he smokes pot?” Jake asked.
Daniel nodded. “I don’t see why not. Drug tests are a thing, right?”
“Yeah, but what if they trace this back to us?”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “They won’t. Now shut up, we’re here.”
The elevator opened and they walked out. The hallway was dim and the rhythmic beat of the bass was muffled through the floor. There were no sounds of shoes or heels clicking against the faded yellow tile. The hall was silent, and safe. Even so, as they made their way down the hallway, they checked every few seconds to make sure they weren’t being followed. When they got to Deno’s classroom, Daniel put on his leather gloves and tried to open the door.
“It’s locked!” Daniel exclaimed. He covered his mouth quickly.
No one came.
Jake kneeled down and dug around in his pocket until he pulled out a paperclip. He then twisted it into a crooked line of silver, put it in the lock, and shook it around until he heard a click.
“Try now,” Jake said as he put the paper clip back in his pocket.
Daniel put his hand on the doorknob and turned it, surprised that it opened. He looked at Jake and smiled. “Thanks. How did you learn to do that?”
“My dad taught me...before he got arrested.”
Daniel’s eyebrows went up. “Oh…well...okay then.”
Jake sighed as they entered the classroom. The lights were off, but the faint light from the hallway was enough to see.
“Let’s get this over with,” Daniel said.
Jake nodded and stood by the door, watching to make sure no one was there.
“Hey Daniel,” Jake said, “What do we do if we get caught?”
Daniel slowly moved towards Deno’s desk. “No one’s going to catch us, everyone’s at the dance!”
“But what if someone comes up here, like the principal?”
Daniel smirked. “We’ll just say we forgot our homework or something. The worst that happens is we get a slap on the wrist.”
“I don’t think this is just a slap on the wrist.”
Daniel stood behind Deno’s desk. “Do you know how many times we’ve smoked in the bathroom and haven’t got caught? Do you think they really care about us or what we do? They just want to pass kids through to graduate, then deal with the next bunch. It’s just an endless cycle of kids coming and going and honestly, I’m pretty sure they stopped caring a long time ago. I mean, have you seen our education? We don’t even know the difference between debit and credit! Half the kids here couldn’t show you Europe on a map or count to ten without a calculator. This is why we need to get rid of teachers like Deno, so we can get ones who are going to teach us lessons we’ll actually need in life!”
Jake’s eyes widened. “That was somehow...deep.”
“I smoked a bit before we came.”
Jake rolled his eyes. “Just do the thing.”
Daniel took the bag of weed out of his pocket, ready to drop it on the desk.
“You’re gonna leave it there?” asked Jake.
“Yeah; why not?”
“Because who the hell would leave their pot on a desk?” Jake hesitated. “Other than some idiot who already smoked some of it.”
“It was only a little bit! Geez, you're like my mom.”
“Dude, we don’t have much time. Put it in the drawer! It’ll look like he was hiding it!”
Daniel grinned. “Smart thinking, Jake. I like it.”
Daniel opened the drawer and his expression completely changed. What was once pleasurable vengeance now turned into surprise and terror.
“Dude,” Daniel said, staggering back as his eyes bulged out of his head. “Come here.”
Jake took one last look at the door and quickly went to the desk. “What is it?”
“Look.” Daniel pointed to the opened drawer with his trembling hand.
Jake looked down, his eyes widening. “Is that...a gun?”
“It is, and there are all these knives...”
“What the hell is this shit?!”
“Jake, we have to go-”
Before he could finish, Daniel collapsed to the floor. His eyes were wide, a look of shock frozen on his face.
“Daniel?” Jake looked down at Daniel’s body, shaking. There was a hole in Daniel’s head. Jake was panting, trying to hold in his anxiety as well as his lunch. He turned to look toward the door and his eyes widened.
“Don’t do this! I’m sor-”
There was a dull thud and Jake’s body slumped to the ground next to Daniel’s, their blood pooling together on the floor.
Mr. Deno stood in the doorway, the dim light illuminating his bald head and scruffy beard. He held the gun out, his face showing no anger, or any emotion at all. He walked over to the desk and pulled out a slip of paper along with a green pen.
“I didn’t expect to see you at the dance tonight,” Mr. Deno began, “but after seeing you two leave, I knew what your plan was.”
He wrote down Daniel and Jake’s name, and then put the paper and the gun back in his drawer.
“I told you I come from a long line of spies, dictators, and hit men.” He looked down at the corpses with a menacing smile. “This is what happens when you don’t pay attention.”
He heard the faint sound of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” beginning to play below. He smiled.
“I would love to stay and chat with you boys, but that’s my song.”
Mr. Deno smirked and glided out the door.