You know the thing I hate most about school? Presentations. They kill me. Teachers just make a bunch of kids work until they're in tears, you know? They do it on purpose, too. Don't let them fool you. Teachers know that everyone does it at the last possible second. They say things like, "This isn't some project you can do in one day," or, "I don't want anyone to fail." But you know that's a lie. If they didn't want people to fail, why'd they assign the goddamn thing? Most people just use their siblings' old ones anyway. And then, they have to put it up in front of the class and talk about it.
That there's the worst bit. All these kids get themselves up there, put on these phony smiles, and stutter their way through the thing until they sit back down. It usually takes about two minutes for each. But then you get the ones who don't ever shut up. Like Old Lindsay Porter. She's up there right now and talking a mile a minute about how Heathcliff and Cathy should've hooked up. She's been up there for five minutes and she's still going! I can't talk near that long.
Mrs. Henderson's the only one still listening. Every time I walk into class, I think she looks like a tortoise. Every time! She's slow thinker, too. The old hag loves Lindsay Porter. I don't know why. Just goes to show how slow she is. Lindsay talks like one of those documentary narrators you hear on TV, like in Nova, with the big words that sound really good. But the thing is, she doesn't know what they mean. You can tell, too. Sometimes she just doesn't make sense. She's probably the biggest phony there is, with all those fake smarts. The worst thing is, though, she doesn't even know it. She's been a phony so long, she doesn't even know she is one anymore. That's why I hate phonies. If they go on being that way for too long, like, say, years, they forget and become Lindsay Porters.
"Holden," Mrs Henderson says, "Are you paying attention?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am!" I say back. I sit up straight, like a soldier, and salute. "You won't see me not paying attention, no, ma'am. My eyes were open and everything!" And they were, too. But I wasn't paying attention.
"Yes, Holden, I see that. Fine. Keep going Lindsay."
See what I mean about slow? Any other teacher would've known right away that I was lying through my teeth about paying attention. I can lie about a lot of things, but not paying attention, no siree, I can't. It's just one of those things, you know? Anyway, Old Lindsay Porter is blabbing again, and Mrs. Henderson is staring at me, so I actually start to give her half a mind.
"And Catherine just really comprehends Heathcliff's emotions and longing for nature. She knows about the passion for trees and rocks. And the dog symbolizes it in a motif! And he really loves her. He was obviously a more perfect match for her than Edmund. All Edmund did was eat Turkish delights all day and complain about dogs in trees!"
What? Did she even read this?
I snorted. I just couldn't help it. Forget how wrong she is, who the Hell would even want to be in a relationship with Heathcliff (well, except for every girl in the goddamn book, but they were all phony idiots who just wanted his money anyway)? You know, I thought that Isabella girl was pretty smart up to there. And then she went and fell for that Heathcliff fellow, and it just killed me! I hate to see a good girl go to a right awful guy.
"Holden? Is something funny to you?"
The tortoise heard me snort. Damn it.
"Yes, ma'am it is. I think it's hilarious. Who the hell wants to date that guy? He's an abusive crazy man, for Chrissake! He killed his wife. Old Izzy never had a chance, and now this girl's up here saying that he would be a good guy? No, ma'am, I don't think so. I wouldn't let my little sister get anywhere near that guy. No, that Edgar had his head on straight, alright. He's the only one who does in the whole goddamn book!"
I'm shouting by the end. I guess she doesn't like that much, on account of her standing there shocked and gaping like a fish for awhile. Thinking on it now, it wasn't my smartest move. I could have just said no. I could've said it was a cough, or something was stuck in my throat. But really, I just wanted to stick it to old Lindsay Porter. Someone has to say that she isn't as smart as she thinks.
Mrs. Henderson calls me up to the desk, and the room gets all dead quiet. You know, like when someone's in trouble, and everyone's awful anticipating as to what gonna happen to them? Yeah, just like that. Man, I hate that quiet. I pretend I'm walking to the judge after I'd just done a horrible crime. maybe a murder, or a kidnapping.
"What's the verdict, your Honor?" I ask when I got to the desk. I guess that throws her a bit, because she just stares at me like I had sprouted another head right there in her room. The old hag gives that look, you know, the one all teachers have down pat where they kind of stare at you and look all mock-shocked and you just feel like some old time whaler shoved a harpoon in your stomach. Then she writes out a pass on a little slip of yellow paper and gives it to me. I don't get those, by the way. I mean, if you're trying to stop a kid from leaving class, do you really think a stupid little piece of paper the size of a driver's license is gonna do it? No way, Jack! But she gives me one anyway.
"Go down to the Principal, Holden. You need to talk about respect."
I want to say, "Look, Chief, I'll respect anyone, sure. But not if I don't have a reason to. You don't respect me. Golden rule and all that, right? So why should I respect you any? Or that Lindsay Porter?" Yeah, I want to say that all right, but I'm standing in my grave already. But I sure wish I had the guts to say it. Just to see the looks on their faces.
You know, there's supposed to be free speech and all in this country, right? So why am I getting punished for using it? What was it that made me saying my opinion wrong? Mrs. Henderson asked the damn question, anyway! I'm supposed to be able to say that kind of stuff. I'm supposed to, but I can't. And that kills me, you know?
It kills me.