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  • nicole stansbury
  • bill frost
  • jeff vice
Carl DeReese only wants to survive junior high school in the Salt Lake City suburbs, but in an era when teachers are afraid of the students, some of his behavior is misdiagnosed as threatening.[More]

Sample Chapters from BLOGS OF WRATH

July 29

I get nervous sometimes. Dad says that nerves lead to pressure, and too much pressure can make you explode. When a pot of corn on the cob was boiling on the stove, he held the lid down and illustrated this theory by showing me the way the steam lifted it. When you have pressure, you need a release—a valve to free yourself. Some people have journals for this kind of liberation. Well, I’ve got mine. My name is Carlos DeReese and this is my blog.

August 1

About my name, Carlos DeReese—it is confusing to some people, because they expect me to be anything except a pale white kid with blond hair and blue eyes. The story of my name comes from my great-grandfather, who grew up in New Mexico. My mom says that it was a common name there at the time, and that’s where it came from. His name was Carlos, and my parents named me after him. I go by Carl, and I dread roll call on the first day of school, when teachers ask for Carlos DeReese. I always have to correct them and tell them, “It’s Carl.” The cool teachers make a note on their list and call me Carl the rest of the year. The lame teachers have to be reminded constantly.
It will really suck when school starts in a few weeks, because we’re building a new house in a new neighborhood, and that means I will have to go to a different school.

August 8

When I stand in what will be our new house, I wonder if it will really be done by the end of the month as they say. My new bedroom will be in the basement—which is fine, because I can have some privacy to listen to music without my dad telling me it’s time to turn it down and go to bed. Plus, we’ll have the house wired with Comcast high-speed Internet. I want to eventually get a laptop with wireless Internet, so I can design a network, but that’s down the road. Maybe that can be a future Xmas or birthday gift if I keep my grades up.

What freaks me out is people can see right through the walls. It’s not as if the house is done yet, but I can stand in what will be my bedroom and see right through the wall into the downstairs family room. From the street, I can see into the whole house. It doesn’t seem like home with the entire world able to look through the walls. It’s just boards and sawdust and two-by-fours.

Maybe we should forget the walls, and let the world watch us as we do our daily stuff. We could be a reality show: House without Walls. But then, that’s what this blog is. I’ll use my mouse and click on Publish, and the whole world will be able to read this. Trouble is, most people won’t even know it’s here.

August 29

It’s weird moving to a new school. My dad tells me all about when he was a kid, and how they moved to different states a couple of times. I’m just lucky to be staying here in Utah. Moving from another town just a few miles away shouldn’t feel so different, but the people just aren’t the same. Maybe we can go back to Woods Cross, and I won’t have such a hard time learning all these new faces in a new school. I already miss my old friends Tim and Trent. It’s like a billion names were poured into my head today. Not that I can keep track of them or match them to faces. Imagine taking all the names that you’ve ever known and then shifting them to different people.

After today I just wanted to get back home, so I could mess around with my computer stuff that’s sort of unpacked and scattered all over the floor. I should probably organize all of my nerdy computer gadgets, but, whatever. Dragging myself through today took a lot of energy, and cleaning just plain sucks.

My life for the past couple of days has been ripping packing tape off U-Haul boxes and rediscovering every stupid worldly possession I have. I find junk that I don’t need, and search forever to find what I’m looking for.

August 30

The thing about Farmington Junior High is that the building itself seems like it was designed just to confuse me. In my old school the hallways made sense. I could almost close my eyes and know where to go. In FJH, I feel like I need GPS simply to find my locker. I swear, between classes the custodians must make it a point to pull the locker numbers off and rearrange them. People are messing with my head, seriously.

I miss Woods Cross. Stupid, I know. On a map, the towns are almost right next to each other. It takes about eleven minutes (I timed it) to drive from our old house to our new house. Of course, that’s on the freeway, and I’m only thirteen. By the time I get to drive I probably won’t even remember anybody from the old neighborhood.

Since the carpet in our house is new, we have to take our shoes off. This is because we don’t have a yard yet, and everything is covered with dirt. Dad says he wants to put in a sprinkler system, spread topsoil, and then top it off with sod. Lucky me, I’ll get to help. When I’m old, is that all I’ll have to worry about? Just stupid grass and sprinklers?

August 31

In my new neighborhood, everyone is either young—like freaking preschool or elementary young—or old. The house next door is filled with children. I haven’t actually been able to count all of them, but there must be at least five kids. The oldest is in third grade. Across the street are Mr. and Mrs. Flinders. When I first read the name on the mailbox, I thought it said Flanders, and that would have been okely-dokely with me. (Get it? Simpsons joke.) Anyway, they’re old. No kids. I’m the only person on our street in junior high. I walk to and from school alone.

The worst part of school is lunch. Not because what they allege to be food is putrid or anything like that. (Let it be known that the meals are crappy.) It’s because I don’t want to sit at a table all alone. Last year, in seventh grade, it was pretty scary, but at least I had Tim and Trent around, and we were going through it together. Today at lunch I didn’t want to sit at a table alone. I just couldn’t. So I bought some chips from the vending machine and walked around eating them. When they were gone, I just continued walking around in the hallway, so it looked like I was going somewhere, even though I wasn’t.

If they’d let me take a bus to Woods Cross Junior High just for lunch period, I’d be happy. Then I could see my friends and not sit alone in the cafeteria. I hope I’m not being a big baby about all of this. Maybe I am. Maybe nobody really cares anyway.

September 5

Have you ever looked under a table at a restaurant and found a crust of gum stuck all over the bottom? My history class can be boring, but today one of the cheerleaders totally freaked out. She screamed and said, “There’s a bunch of boogers stuck under my desk!” Then she lifted up her hand, held it in front of her, and said, “And now they’re on my hand.” She almost started to cry, I swear, as she ran to the bathroom. The whole class laughed, and we really needed a break. It was perfect timing. Even the teacher smiled a little.

Most of my other classes are pretty good—except for gym. Yesterday I got pantsed when we were playing basketball. Everyone thought it was pretty funny, but I was so embarrassed I thought I was going to die. Luckily my underwear only went down part of the way, so my white butt was only partially exposed. And the girls weren’t in the gym at the time, thank God. Coach Tate told me to “toughen up,” but I really just wanted to go home. Most of the time, I try to fake a headache so I don’t have to play sports. Sometimes it works. For now, I’m going to try and figure out this math homework. Mrs. Taylor is going to slay me if I miss one more assignment.

September 6

Mom has finally arranged every last bit of furniture to her liking. And I mean all of it, including the pictures on the walls, every decoration we used to have in the old house, plus a hefty amount of new additions. We have this shelf above the wall that runs between the kitchen and the living room, and I’ve noticed that she’s added a ton of baskets, candles, flower arrangements, and stuff that only moms can think of.

I wish she’d sleep, though. I can tell that she’s been tossing and turning all night because her face seems so tired all the time. Sleeping in a new house is a little freaky at first, but I’m getting used to it. I can make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night without turning on a light. At least, I hope it’s the bathroom! Har-dee-har-har. Gosh, I’m funny.

Back to Mom, though—it’s like she’s got something on her mind. I hope
everything’s all right. Since she’s hung up all the decorations, I’ve noticed this calendar that she put on the wall above the telephone in the kitchen. There is an appointment penciled in for next Wednesday with someone called Dr. Abbot. I know it isn’t for me or my father, and that leaves Mom. I hope she’s not sick or anything. Maybe she needs something to help her sleep at night. Maybe she needs her old house back with her old friends.

About yesterday’s post, the thing with the cheerleader really happened. I sort of feel guilty about bringing it up on this blog, because when I do something stupid I want to bury it forever and never let anyone know about it. You just had to have been there. The look on her face, man—it was priceless. That’s the thing about cheerleaders. They never appear to be anything but cute and perfect. This was a nice change of pace.

You never picture a beautiful cheerleader with her perfect makeup, perfect hair, and perfect clothes sitting on the john taking a massive dump stinking up the entire bathroom. . Anybody got a match?

September 7

So my mom has the house all situated and perfect, while my room is a
complete mess. Yesterday I was looking all over the place for my Reel Big Fish CD and I toppled a stack of discs. They spilled all over the floor. It looks like a bomb went off inside Media Play.

The computer works, though. I still need to get my books out—I think my little bookshelf is still in the garage. Sometimes in the summer I stay up late reading, because there isn’t anything else to do. I don’t have like a million books, just a few. But I feel like a nerd talking about actually wanting to read during the summertime. Shouldn’t I be out skateboarding or rollerblading or hanging out at the mall?

This kid has the locker next to mine at school, and when he opened it I noticed that he has an Aquabats sticker on the inside of his door. (We’re not supposed to put stickers on our lockers at Farmington Junior High, by the way.) I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think anybody in this whole school knew about the Aquabats. Maybe this school isn’t like living on another planet.

September 8

You’re going to think I’m totally gay. You’re going to think I have a crush on this kid. I don’t. Okay? So, there’s that right up front.

But … I did intentionally dig through the stacks of boxes in my room to find my Aquabats T-shirt to wear to school today. I sort of thought I might be able to make friends with my locker neighbor who appears to like the same band. Isn’t that stupid? I’m pathetic, I know.

When I was walking to school this morning, I was thinking to myself, What if the Aquabats sticker isn’t his, but was totally left there by someone from last year? What if he thinks the Aquabats suck, and he’s pissed because the kid that used the locker last year put a sticker on it that won’t come off. He’ll see me in my stupid Aquabats shirt and think I’m the biggest idiot in the whole school. This was when I decided that I must be the most desperate, pathetic dweeb in the entire universe. I’m either hopelessly lonely or just a total loser.

That’s the thing about moving into a new neighborhood. You have to define yourself to all of these strangers. Back at home, everybody knows me. They know that I like to drink Dr. Pepper and that my favorite cereal is peanut butter Cap’n Crunch. They know that I’m a total computer nerd. They knowthat the best way to spend a summer evening is to walk to the 7-11 and buy Slurpees and nachos and go hang out at the park until we’re out so late we might get grounded, but who in the hell cares? They know that I’m just the same kid that started kindergarten with them.

In Farmington, I feel like I should buy an advertisement in the school
newspaper to tell everybody the basic facts about me. This is why I wore the Aquabats shirt. It’s my way of saying, “Hello world. I’m a kid that likes this kind of music. Is there anyone out there who has something in common with me?”

This is me trying to fit into the puzzle of FJH. The funny thing is, I never once thought about fitting in back at home. My current desperation has reached disturbing levels. When you think about it, the friends you have that live in your neighborhood are complete accidents. You meet kids your age based on the odds of their parents ending up owning a home near the one your parents ended up owning. We bought our old house because my mom liked the rosebushes in the front yard. Because of that, I ended up living next door to my old friend Tim. He is, by the way, the reason I love Reel Big Fish
and the Aquabats. I haven’t seen Tim since we moved to Farmington. How depressing.

In this new school, everybody already knows everybody else. I feel like I’m showing up late for class when the teacher wants everyone to get together in groups for projects. By the time I arrive, nobody needs another member. I’m extra. I’m a leftover. Wrap me in tinfoil, and then put me in the fridge.

But back to my shirt. Before school even started—before I even went into the freaking building with its confusing hallways that run like a maze—this girl totally walked up to me and said—and I quote—“I love the Aquabats.” The cool thing is, she was absolutely hot. She might even be in ninth grade. Look at me, ladies and gentlemen, wooing the older ladies with my spectacular wardrobe. Thank you very much.

When she said it, I think I smiled and then immediately blushed and then kept walking. She was going the opposite direction on the sidewalk, so it wasn’t totally awkward like I was blowing her off or anything. At least I hope not.

Anyway, the kid with the locker next to mine saw my shirt. It wasn’t until the end of lunch, but he actually spoke to me and said, “Nice shirt.”
I felt like a retard, so all I said was, “Thanks.”
“I didn’t know anybody around here had any taste in music,” he said. “Besides myself, of course.”
“I like these guys,” I said.
He dug into his locker, found his backpack, unzipped a pocket, and pulled out his iPod. “Check this out,” he said. “Every song they’ve ever recorded. Even some live bootlegs that I downloaded.”
“You have to hear this one song. It’s going to be on their new album, and it’s not released yet, but it kicks.”

I forget the name of the song, but we were both late for fifth period because he wanted me to hear the whole song. His name is Dex. Even though he is about six inches taller than me, I still hope we become friends. It probably makes me look shorter than I really am when I stand next to him. Dex is skinny and isn’t the tallest kid in our school at all, but it seems like he’s tall compared to me. Not that I’m short, either. I’m just not tall. His hair is longer than mine, too. I doubt my mom would like it if I had hair that looked like a mop that covered my ears. Sometimes I wonder if he even combs it. He kind of looks like that Ashton Kutcher guy on Punk’d. That probably means that he is one of the popular kids at this school, so I doubt he’ll want to hang around with a nerd like me.

I think that the girl from this morning and then this Dex kid are the only two people who have ever spoken to me at school, other than the skater kid that sits next to me in English who always asks me how to spell every freaking word in the dictionary when we’re doing our daily journal entries. “Dude, how do you spell gravity? Dude, do you spell fracture with a k? Dude, are there two e’s in bleed?” Judging from his scabs and scars, he must have injured his head long ago in a skating accident and damaged the part that controls spelling.

So, yes, people talked to me today. Isn’t that the most glorious accomplishment of all time?

September 13

My dad and mom came back from the store with a brand-new vacuum
which probably means I’ll be enjoying the privilege—as they would put it—of vacuuming our new house until there is no trace of even a speck of dust. Well, it’s better than mowing a lawn. I’ve been watching everyone else outside mowing their lawns; fortunately ours isn’t installed yet, so I can just sit back and take pleasure in watching my neighbors wasting their lives away mowing their stupid grass.

I found a really cool Aquabats song, “Wild Sea,” on the Internet. Hopefully the music police don’t find out and then drag me off to jail. Don’t people have anything better to do than arrest teenagers for downloading music?

We went and visited the neighbors today, the ones with a bunch of kids and a Ford van that seats about twenty. My dad said it’s good to maintain excellent relationships with other people—but these guys live in a madhouse.

When we walked to the door, I noticed their crooked Home Sweet Home doormat. My mom straightened it, out of instinct, while my dad and I rolled our eyes. When we rang the doorbell, it sounded like an avalanche was heading our way from within the house. The door flew open, and a whole pack of crazy kids came barging through. It seemed like this family was lodging a wild pack of Oompa-Loompas (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). I’ve never seen so many dumpy, messy-haired kids in my entire life. They seem like a nice family, but hanging around that many little kids would give me a headache.

Afterward, my dad took me with him to Super Target and let me get a couple CDs, which he never does without a reason. I’m thinking it’s probably an advance payment for having to vacuum this whole house. Hey, that’s good enough for me.

September 15

I actually hit the softball today in physical education! It was nowhere near a home run, but it wasn’t a total strikeout either. I think Coach Tate even showed a slight smile of hope on his face. He stalks around all day gripping his notebook and jotting down things—demerits for people who slack off or advancements for those who play sports well. Anyone who can make that guygrin deserves a free Slurpee and nachos.

Speaking of Slurpees and nachos, I got an e-mail today from my friend Tim in Woods Cross. I found out he’s enjoying the benefits of Slurpees and nachos at 7-11 without me. He’s really hilarious and can tell jokes like a pro. One time he made me laugh while I was drinking, causing snot and Dr. Pepper Slurpee to shoot out of my nose. Okay, that was gross—but it’s true; I love this kid. Again, I’m not gay.

It would be hard to summarize all of what he said in the e-mail, but he wrote something kind of funny that made me want to go back to Woods Cross.
Here is his e-mail.

How’s the new house? Has your mom got the place decked out with all those trippy decorations? Everyone was asking about you at the beginning of the school year, saying that you totally disappeared. We really miss you here, dude. Trent and Brock say hi, too. Brock got his thumb all messed up when a firecracker exploded in his hand. He can’t write with his right hand, and it’s funny because all of his homework looks like his three-year-old brother wrote it. You ought to run away and come back here. I’ll order the pizza.

Even though he tries to be funny, I know he really meant what he said. Just hearing about my old friends and what they’re doing now made me want to go back. It’s pathetic, really, when I think about it. Kids that used to live next door are writing e-mails to stay in touch. We’d sleep over at each other’s houses almost every night in the summer. We were like brothers, and now we’re reduced to an occasional e-mail, like I’ve moved to freaking Texas instead of only eleven minutes away. Still, hearing from Tim made my whole
stupid day. A few typed sentences followed by clicking the Send button buys a lot of happiness. It doesn’t take much. I traded my friends for a Ford van full of Oompa-Loompa children? I think I got ripped off.

September 16

It wasn’t the vacuum. I thought the unexpected CD bribery from Dad was sort of a pre-thank-you for the chore of vacuuming the new carpet. Six AM is a nasty hour to have a great big tractor snorting out exhaust right outside your bedroom window. Did anybody tell this guy that today was Saturday? Damn it, people. I want answers!

I got up to close my window (it was warm last night), and what I saw was a bit puzzling. Some dude was digging trenches in our yard with this tractor that has this gadget that looks like a huge chainsaw that goes into the ground.

It cuts the ground in perfect trenches, with the dirt piled along the sides. It also wakes up teenagers who have been up all night listening to music and screwing around online.

Now I know what the CDs were for: Dad will need my help to install
sprinklers. I guess this isn’t a bad way to spend a Saturday. He probably told me we were going to spend the day doing this, and I probably forgot. That happens sometimes. I don’t usually forget stuff, but I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. Like yesterday, we had a worksheet due in English that I totally spaced. I got it done, though. I finished my journal entry early and the worksheet was stupid anyway. “Circle the prepositional phrase in the following sentences.” It took a minute to complete, and I got 100 percent. So did the skater kid next to me, but he did slip me a dollar for a Mountain Dew, so fair is fair. But getting back to whatever my dad had planned for me, it wasn’t that bad. I like hanging out with my father. I don’t know why. He’s pretty mellow, and it doesn’t feel like I need to behave any differently when he’s around. My old friends, like Tim, for instance, are always a little afraid of their fathers. Tim would never actually want to spend time with his dad. He even groaned about having to spend a week with his family in Florida a couple of summers ago. Boo-hoo! I’d love to go hang out on the beach in Florida.

Anyway, Dad and I assembled the plastic pipes in a perfect grid to cover the entire lawn—or soon-to-be lawn. My father and I discovered that our neighbors with the Oompa-Loompa children also have a couple of kittens. I’m not entirely a cat person, because I have allergies, but the kittens were cute. They certainly weren’t shy. They’d chase each other through the trenches, and then one kitten would jump on the other kitten, and they’d roll around in the dirt for a while. One of them even attacked my shoelace while I was connecting some pipes. That place next door, man,—it has to be totally
insane: a hundred children and two wild kittens. It gives me a headache just thinking about it.

In addition to the kittens, one of the neighbor kids came over to watch—and get covered in dirt. I think he was maybe about two or so. He kept coming up to me and giving me big slobbery—and dirty—pieces of Tootsie Roll. At least I hope they were Tootsie Rolls and not “gifts” buried by the unruly kittens. He was awesome, though. It made me wonder what it would be like if I had a little brother. I think it would kick some serious butt. I could teach him how to listen to Blink 182 and Green Day.

Thinking about stuff like that sometimes makes me sad, so I had to concentrateon my work as much as possible.

We finished the sprinkler layout by sundown. When I went inside, there was about ten pounds of dirt in my shoes, and my hands were blue from the gluey stuff that we used to connect the plastic pipes together. Dad says that sod will arrive Monday, so I know what I’ll be doing after school. Oh joy!

September 20

Well it’s 3:30 AM and, with a lack of anything better to do, I’m posting on my blog—yes, I know I don’t have a life. It was confirmed in my third period math class that maybe I really am just a stupid nerd. Look at me—I’m sitting on my computer complaining my worries away into cyberspace, where every single word I type will be eaten by the Internet black hole.  Math isn’t a very fun subject for anyone, especially me. Anyone who considers math their favorite topic should probably be sent to reside with the Oompa-Loompas next door for a few days until the throbbing headache kills them.

I should have known things wouldn’t always be this trouble free for me at school; nobody goes through their whole junior high career without being harassed. When the class was taking notes, a balled-up piece of paper bumped against my foot. It was a crappy illustration showing a character wearing an Aquabats T-shirt, except the artist had replaced Aquabats with Aquafag. The character was sitting all alone at a lunch table. The caption below the drawing said, “I’m so cool.”

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s why I’m up this early. That single piece of paper that gently tapped my foot totally destroyed me; nothing could have possibly cheered me up. No, not even Aquabats—or Aquafags, I guess. How stupid of me to let something this ridiculous bother me. Why should I care what somebody in my math class thinks about me? I felt more secure knowing that I was a loser before the added stress of the people around me rubbing it in. It’s like everybody is saying, “We have friends—what is taking you so long?” Like I’m some freak that is incapable of having friends.

I should probably start paying people to be my friends. There are a million things I’m saving up to buy, but who really needs any of that without friends? I feel like my whole life I’ve been building myself as a person. It’s like when we moved, the foundation was ripped right out from under me, and I’ve totally collapsed. I feel like complete crap. I’m thinking of faking sick tomorrow; I just want to stay home.

Home … yeah, right. Home ended a long time ago.

September 21

You wake up and force yourself to go to school. This is what you have to do, because this is what everyone does. If you don’t, you’re a freak. While you’re preparing for school you feel this aching dread in the back of your throat that feels like cancer. It swells and wants to choke you. It makes your eyes want to water. Your heart beats too fast. You want to go back to bed—and not just because you’ve been up since 3:30 tossing and turning. Going back to bed isn’t about sleep. Sleep is a lie. Sleep is a series of nightmares that makes you breathe too fast, like you just ran up a flight of stairs. Sleep is a gentle suicide that ends each day and leads to the resurrection of morning, when you start it all over. It isn’t about wanting to go back to bed. Try going under the bed. Hiding in the darkness. Anything is better than going to school today. You start to wonder if you even matter. You start to wonder if this isn’t all one big mistake. Lunch is a few hours away, and you can’t stand the thought of sitting at a table alone, knowing that at the same time Tim and Trent and the rest of your friends are at the old school having a good time, except you’re not there anymore. You get in the shower hoping you can wash away the loneliness, but you can’t. What happens is worse. The door is locked, the water is steamy, and, since water is pouring over you anyway, you let the tears leak out. Nobody will know. This isn’t being a crybaby. This is simply being. Real life is like this, but nobody admits it. You stand in the shower and you bawl like a total fag, because this feels a lot like being smothered. You imagine that the steam is so thick that it becomes water and the whole bathroom is a flood where you will drown. This is falling below the surface. This is what it feels like to be swallowed. The water camouflages your tears, and it all washes down the drain, and at the end of the day not one stupid bit of any of this even matters at all.


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