TITLE: GUIDE DOG
GENRE: YA thriller
One of the first things I’d learned at Catholic school was that God had a purpose for everything. Sometimes, we’d been told, you couldn’t make sense of that purpose until you’d been around long enough and really thought about what it might be. Now, as I sat in the principal’s office looking at my hands (versus meeting the disappointed gaze of Mr. Mickford, or Father Mickford as he liked to be called) I wondered if I’d found my purpose in life-to really piss people off. Even the people who wanted to help me.
Father Mickford glanced at the book on his desk. My dog-eared, frayed copy of Jane Eyre, the one I’d marked up with an aggressive combination of yellow highlighter and ball point pen. He hadn’t opened the book to see the damage, which was good--how many detentions could I take? I watched from beneath my lashes as the light shafting through the stained glass windows turned his balding head into a veritable Easter-egg of green and rose and yellow, and waited for the fall.
“Mrs. Cole says you were very dismissive of the book.”
I shrugged. “ Didn’t like it.”
“Okay, well…there’s nothing saying you have to like everything you read. But she said…”
I knew what she’d said. But it felt like good form to ask. “What?”
He cleared his throat. “You said that the book was…um…masturbatory wish fulfillment for ugly girls.”
The words fell between us. I propped my chin on my hand, as if considering. “Yeah, well…”
“So you did say it?”
Of course I had. It was far too creative to have come out of the mouths of any of the other kids in the class…which was exactly the attitude, my mother liked to tell me, that got me into trouble time and time again. You think you’re smarter than everyone else.
And as for what was going on right now, there was no point in not confessing. “Yeah. I did.”
“Okay.” He nodded, the light playing on his head. “You do know that…you know what masturbation is?”
I didn’t roll my eyes, even though it was a struggle. “Of course. I went to public school, you know. Before I came here.” And I’d bet he was regretting his decision to take me in right about now. But wasn’t that what Catholics did? Faith, hope, charity, sacrifice, all that crap?
“Right. But…you know that Mrs. Cole runs a…a tight ship…and she doesn’t like hearing that…that kind of thing.”
I was sure she didn’t. Mrs. Cole looked like the stereotypical nun, even though she didn’t wear a habit-tall, whip-thin, with gray hair always pulled back in a bun. As far as teachers went, she was okay, but a lot of these ex-nun types looked like they’d faint at the sight of any exposed skin. “I’m sorry.”
“Okay. I’m glad.” He rested his hand protectively on the paperback, covering Jane’s pale oval face, her brown eyes.