Saturday, July 7, 2007

Davy Jones's Locker

by Hillbilly Mom
Genre: Science Fiction

It happened as predicted, on the exact day and time. The counties below them had been inundated for months now. The rising waters had crept higher and higher, at a rate of four inches per hour. When Davy went to bed, tendrils of water were licking at his front sidewalk. When he awoke the next morning, nearly four feet of water covered his yard. The basement was full, and about a foot of water swirled about the first floor. Davy’s family was well-prepared. The water would not go higher. They had switched over to the new electrical system without a hitch. Air mattresses and pool accessories dotted the living room. Mom and Dad had inflated them last night.

From the television mounted on the wall, Davy noted that his school was now running on the water route. This, too, had been planned and publicized. The kids knew what to do, as did the teachers. Davy slipped on his water shoes and slopped through the downstairs hall to the kitchen. His mother plopped two Eggos on his plate, and Davy coated them with syrup. It was pretty much like any other Wednesday. He wiped his mouth and headed out front to wait for his bus. He daydreamed a bit, as most 13-year-old boys are wont to do, about the girls at school. Davy hoped this new water world would meant the girls would dress more scantily than before. Not that some of them weren’t nearing the dividing line between ‘scantily-dressed’ and ‘undressed’ already.

Davy listened for the bus. He knew it couldn’t possibly sound the same. He knew his old school bus could not drive in the 4-5 feet of water that covered the road. Davy dangled his legs off the rock-and-mortar post of the fence. He looked to his left, and saw the bus boat. It was bright yellow, with the driver sitting up front. Davy was near the end of the line. The end nearest to school. He was one of the last students picked up, and among the first dropped off after school. The bus boat was moving at a good clip. It slowed as it neared his stop. Davy was sad to see that
the girls were dressed the same as every other day.

“Good morning, Mr. Franklin.”

“Good morning, Davy.” Mr. Franklin handed Davy a paddle and a life jacket as he clambered aboard.

Davy sat down near the front of the bus boat, right side. He began to paddle as Mr. Franklin called out, “Stroke. Stroke.” They arrived at school at the regular time. Davy followed the other kids to the gym. They were not allowed to go to their lockers before school. Just as Davy had feared, the water in the main hallway was over his head. He was a small child for 13, and had been assigned the profession of “jockey” for his Beta Club Induction Dress-up Day. Davy was prepared. He pulled a jointed elbow straw from his pocket, and popped the short end in his mouth. With the long end above the surface, he could breathe just fine. He climbed the steps to the bleachers, bringing his head above water again. Instead of basketball this morning, the duty teacher was holding a diving contest. Contestants shinnied up the basketball goal supports, and dived from the hoop. The water at gym floor level was a bit over 10 feet deep. Some kids went for the technical difficulty. Others preferred the crowd-pleasing belly flop style.

When first bell sounded, Davy readied his straw and headed down the main hall to his locker. Just his luck, he had a bottom locker. Davy took a deep breath and ducked his head under the surface. He took out his pen and slammed the door. The Social Studies books were in Mr. Thompson’s classroom upstairs. They had been stacking them there in preparation for the flood. Davy jammed the straw in his mouth and walked toward the stairs. Once the students were seated in the classroom, Mr. Thompson began to pontificate, as usual, about the ancient Greeks. The steady drip drip drip of water from the students’ clothing made Davy sleepy. He tried to picture swarthy Mr. Thompson back in Greek times; Mr. Thompson pursuing and practicing hedonism. A small smile edged its way into his mouth.

Near the end of class, two office workers came in, pushing a cart from the A/V department. It was loaded with neon green waterwings. “How many students do you have under 4 feet nine inches, Mr. Thompson? The office says they have to wear these waterwings at all times, unless they are in the basement classrooms.” Mr. Thompson looked out at the class. “I think Davy Jones is the only one. Anybody else?” No one raised a hand. Mr. Thompson tossed Davy a pair of waterwings. “Blow them up, son.” Davy did. His face burned bright red. He felt like a baby.

When the bell rang to end first hour, Davy hurried back downstairs to his Math class. Mrs. Wilson told the students to sit on the backs of their chairs, and rest their feet on the seats. That way, everyone’s head was above water. Davy hated the waterwings. It was nearly impossible to walk down the hall now. His feet didn’t touch the floor. Bigger kids grabbed him and shoved him for sport. He bobbed like a cork. On the brighter side, he didn’t need his straw to breathe. The rest of the class was laughing. Davy turned, and saw bubbles popping up around Ricky Richardson. Mrs. Wilson frowned. “Enough of this frivolity! Save your farting for your leisure time, Ricky! We have a lot of work to get done before the MAP test. Pay attention!”

Third hour sent Davy to the basement for Science. They had practiced what to do when the water arrived. Yes, they’d had drills once a week. He took a deep breath and dived underwater. Good thing Mrs. Wilson had given up one minute before the bell so he could deflate his waterwings and stuff them in his pocket. Davy swam his way down the stairwell, down the hall, and into Mrs. Beemer’s classroom. He swam like a dolphin to his desk, snagged his air line from the ceiling, and popped it into his mouth. Whew! That was pushing the limit on his breath. He’d have to take a deeper one next time. Mrs. Beemer started class. It was a lesson on density. Davy liked the hands-on lessons of Mrs. Beemer, but his stomach could only think about lunch.

During lunch, a bit of an argument broke out at the teachers’ table. Mrs. Beemer taunted Mr. Thompson for having a wreck on the way to school.

“Couldn’t you see that GIANT schoolboat in front of you, Thompson?”

“Hmpf! I SAW it, but you can’t exactly put the brakes on like you do with a car, now can you, Mrs. Beemer? Surely you know something about momentum and friction and deceleration.”

“I certainly do. And I know not to follow too closely behind a schoolboat, too. How much damage did you do?”

“I must’ve cracked the bow, somehow. When I pulled into the teachers’ marina, I was taking on water. Bailing couldn’t keep up with it. Lucky for me, I had my emergency raft.”

“Yes. I saw you send those kids out to blow it up. What century do you live in, Thompson? They have those auto-inflate rafts now. You don’t have to make 6th graders blow it up by mouth.”

“They didn’t mind. It gave them something else to do besides annoy the hell out of me!”

“Somebody got up on the wrong side of the dock this morning.”

“Get off my back, Beemer! This is harrassment!”

“I’m just teasing. You never could take a joke if it was on you.”

“Shut up, you stupid…PUCKER! That’s what you are, you basement-dwelling denizen! PUCKER!

You spend all day underwater and think you are our equal. One of these days, I’m gonna put a kink in your airhose. Then we’ll see who has the last laugh.”

“Don’t threaten me, Thompson! I’ll file a grievance!”

“Grievance, schmievance. Keep flappin’ your jaws, you damn PUCKER! You’ll get what’s coming to you. And that’s a promise.”

The lunch bell ended the spat, and all rushed back to class. For the most part, the days began to stretch into one another as everyone adapted to the new routine. Davy became adept at evading the kids who wished to make sport of him. He found that a well-placed underwater knee did wonders to discourage other students from turning him into their own personal beach ball. He didn’t even need his locker any more, what with the books being stored in the upper classrooms. Mr. Thompson let most of the kids with bottom lockers keep their paper and pens in his room, in cubbies made from boxes that used to hold copier paper.

Yes, the students and teachers adapted. In fact, they all got along swimmingly, as Mr. Thompson was wont to say. That is, until the day that Mrs. Beemer did not show up for work. The police checked her home, but found only her 13 cats, perched high upon the kitchen cabinets. Later in the morning, about the middle of third hour, the police met with Mr. Thompson in the principal’s office. After one hour and fifty-seven minutes of questioning, just in time for Mr. Thompson to have his planning period, he said matter-of-factly:
“You might want to check Davy Jones’s locker.”

The police rushed to the abandoned locker, and found one Vivian Beemer, bound with an air hose, breathing through two bendy elbow straws. The slight woman had a straw in each nostril, with the other ends poking up through the vent holes into the top locker. Extra straws had been squeezed down onto the long part, making each one about two feet long. The police freed Mrs. Beemer, and took her down to the police station, where the bailiff gave her some towels and chicken noodle soup.

Mr. Thompson was transferred to the high school across town, and padlocks were placed on all bottom lockers. Davy Jones went about his life in the wet new world much as he did before: quietly, without much fuss.

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