Insinuation 2.3

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I didn’t have any time to contemplate the message I’d received from Tattletale.  The bell rang and I had to hurry to properly log off and shut down before heading to my next class.  As I gathered my stuff, I realized I had been so caught up in researching on the villains I’d met last night and in Tattletale’s message that I had forgotten to worry about getting into trouble for skipping class.  I felt a kind of resignation as I realized I would have to face the music later in the day, anyways.

Madison was already in her seat as I got to the classroom.  She had a pair of girls crouching by either side of her desk, and all three of them broke into giggles as they saw me.  Bitches.

My seat of choice was the far right, front row, closest to the door.  Lunch hour and immediately after school was when the trio tended to give me the hardest time, so I tried to sit as close as possible to the door, for a quick escape.  I spotted a puddle of orange juice on the seat, with the empty plastic bottle lying just underneath the chair.  Madison was going for a two for one.  It was both a ‘prank’ and a reminder of how they had doused me with juice and soft drinks last Friday.  Irritated, I carefully avoided looking at  Madison and took an empty seat a few rows back.

Mr Gladly entered the room, he was short and young enough you could almost mistake him for another high school student.  It took a few minutes for him to start the class, and he immediately ordered us to break into groups of four to share our homework with one another and to prepare to share it with the rest of the class.  The group that had the most to contribute would win the prize he had mentioned on Friday, treats from the vending machine.

It was stuff like this that made Mr. Gladly my least favorite teacher.  I got the impression he’d be surprised to hear he was anyone’s least favorite teacher, but that was just one more point against him in my book.  I don’t think he comprehended why people might not like him, or how miserable group work was when you didn’t identify with any of the groups or cliques in the school.  He just figured people liked doing group work because it let them talk and hang out with their friends in class.

While the class got sorted, I figured I’d avoid standing around like a loser with no group to join and get something else out of the way. I approached the desk at the front of the room.

“Mr. Gladly?”

“Call me Mr. G.  Mr. Gladly is my dad,” he informed me with a sort of mock sternness.

“Sorry, uh, Mr. G.  I need a new textbook.”

He gave me a curious look, “What happened to your old one?”

Soaked with grape juice by a trio of harpies.  “I lost it,” I lied.

“Replacement textbooks are thirty five dollars.  I don’t expect it now, but…”

“I’ll have it for you by the end of the week,” I finished for him.

He handed me a textbook, and I looked over the room before joining the only group with room for more: Sparky and Greg.  We had been in a group several times before, as the leftovers when all the friends and cliques had banded together.

Sparky had apparently picked up his nickname when a third grade teacher used it in an ironic sense, and it had stuck, to the point where I doubted anyone but his own mother even knew his real name.  He was a drummer, long haired, and was so out of touch with reality that you could stop talking in the middle of a sentence and he wouldn’t notice.  He just went through life in a daze, presumably until he could do his thing, which was his band.

Greg was just the opposite.  He was smarter than average, but he had a way of saying every thought that came into his head – his train of thought didn’t have any brakes.  Or tracks.  It would have been easier to be in a group with just Sparky and essentially do the work by myself than it would be to work with Greg.

I got my share of the homework out of my new backpack.  Mr. Gladly had asked us to come up with a list of ways that capes had influenced society.  In between the various steps of my getting ready for my first night out in costume, I had taken the time to fix up my art project and had come up with a fairly comprehensive list for Mr. Gladly’s homework.  I had even used newspaper and magazine clippings to support my points.  I felt pretty good about it.

“I didn’t get much done,” Greg said, “I got distracted by this new game I got and it is really really good, it’s called Space Opera, have you played it?”

A full minute later he was still on the same topic, even though I wasn’t playing any attention to him or giving him any feedback on what he was saying, “…you have to understand it’s a genre, and it’s one I’ve really been getting into it lately, since I started watching this anime called – Oh, hey, Julia!”  Greg broke off from his monologue to wave with enough energy and excitement that I felt a little embarrassed to just be sitting next to him.  I turned in my seat to see one of Madison’s friends coming in, late.

“Can I be in Madison’s group?” Julia asked Mr. Gladly.

“That wouldn’t be fair.  Greg’s group only has three people.  Help them,” Mr. Gladly said.

Julia walked over to where we were sitting and made a face.  Just loud enough for us to hear, she muttered a disgusted, “Ew.”  I felt much the same about her joining us.

It was downhill from there.  Madison’s group moved so the four of them were sitting right next to our group, which let Julia talk with them while still sitting with us.  The presence of all the popular and attractive girls in the class just got Greg more wound up, and he began trying to insert himself into their conversation, only to get shut down or ignored.  It was embarrassing to watch.

“Greg,” I said, trying to distract him from the other group, “Here’s what I did over the weekend.  What do you think?”

I handed him the work I had done.  To his credit, he gave it a serious read.

“This is really good, Taylor,” He said, when he was done.

“Let me see,” Julia said.  Before I could stop him, Greg dutifully handed my work over to her.  I watched her glance over it, then toss it onto Madison’s table.  There were a few giggles.

“Give that back,” I said.

“Give what back?” Julia said.

“Madison,” I said, ignoring Julia, “Give it back.”

Madison, cute and petite and crush of choice for half the guys in our grade, turned and managed a combined look and tone of such condescension that a grown man would have flinched, “Nobody is talking to you, Taylor.”

That was that.  Short of running to the teacher and complaining, I wasn’t going to get my work back, and anyone who considered that an option has clearly never been in high school.  Greg looked between me and the girls with a kind of panic before settling into a funk, Sparky had his head down on his desk, either asleep or close to it, and I was left fuming.  I made an attempt at trying to to salvage things, but getting Greg to focus was impossible, as he constantly tried to apologize and made lame attempts to convince the other group to give my work back.  Our time ran out, and Mr. Gladly picked out people from each group to stand up and go over what they had come up with.

I sighed as Mr. Gladly picked Greg to do our group’s presentation, and was forced to watch Greg botch it badly enough that Mr. Gladly asked him to sit down before he was finished.  Greg was one of those kids I always figured made teachers groan inwardly when they raised their hands in class.  The sort of kid that took twice as long to answer as anyone else, and was often only half-right or so off-tangent that it derailed the discussion.  I couldn’t imagine what had possessed Mr. Gladly to pick Greg to do our group’s presentation.

What made things worse was that I then got to watch Madison rattle off my very impressive sounding list of ways capes had changed the world.  She cribbed almost all of my stuff; fashion, economics, Tinkers and the tech boom, the fact that movies, television and magazines had been tweaked to accommodate cape celebrities, and so on.  Still, she got it wrong when explaining how law enforcement had changed.  My point had been that with qualified capes easing the workload and taking over for most high profile crises, law enforcement of all stripes were more free to train and expand their skill sets, making for smarter, more versatile cops.  Madison just made it sound like they got a lot of vacation days.

Mr. Gladly named another group as the winners, by virtue of the sheer number of things they had come up with, though he made a point of saying the quality of Madison’s work was nearly good enough to count.  From there, he moved on to his lecture.

I was steamed and I could hardly focus on the lecture, as my power crackled and tugged at my attention from the periphery of my consciousness, making me acutely aware of every bug within a tenth of a mile.  I could tune it out, but the extra concentration that took, coupled with the anger I felt towards Madison and Mr. Gladly, was distracting enough that I couldn’t focus on the lecture.  I took a cue from Sparky and put my head down on the desk.  Being as exhausted from the previous night’s activity as I was, it was all I could do to keep from dozing off.  Still, spending the class half asleep made it go by faster.  I was startled when the bell rang.

As everyone gathered their things and began to file out, Mr. Gladly approached me and quietly said, “I’d like you to stick around for a few minutes, please.”

I just nodded and put my books away, then waited for the teacher to finish negotiating where to meet the prize winners from the class contest so he could pay for their prizes.

When it was just me and Mr. Gladly in the classroom, he cleared his throat and then told me, “I’m not stupid, you know.”

“Okay,” I replied, not sure how to respond.

“I have something of an idea of what goes on in my classroom.  I don’t know exactly who, but I know some people are giving you a pretty hard time.”

“Sure,” I said.

“I saw the mess left on your usual seat today.  I remember a few weeks back when glue was smeared on your desk and chair.  There was also the incident that happened at the start of the year.  All of your teachers had a meeting about that.”

I couldn’t meet his gaze as he brought that last event up.  I looked at my feet.

“And I’m guessing there’s more that I don’t know about?”

“Yeah,” I said, still looking down.  It was hard to explain how I felt about this conversation.  I was gratified, I think, that someone had brought it up, but annoyed that that someone was Mr. Gladly.  I felt kind of embarrassed too, like I had walked into a door and someone was trying too hard to make sure I was okay.

“I asked you after the glue incident.  I’m asking you again.  Would you be willing to go to the office with me, to talk with the principal and vice principal?”

After a few moments of consideration, I looked up and asked him, “What would happen?”

“We’d have a discussion about what’s been going on.  You would name the person or people you believe responsible, and each of them would be called in to talk to the principal, in turn.”

“And they’d get expelled?” I asked, though I already knew the answer.

Mr. Gladly shook his head, “If there was enough proof, they would be suspended for several days, unless they’ve done something very serious.  Further offenses could lead to longer suspensions or expulsion.”

I gave a rueful chuckle, feeling the frustration welling up, “Great.  So they might miss a few days of school, and only if I can prove they were behind it all… and whether they get suspended or not, they feel a hundred percent justified in whatever else they do to the rat for revenge.”

“If you want things to get better, Taylor, you have to start somewhere.”

“That isn’t a starting point.  It’s shooting myself in the foot,” I said, pulling my bag over my shoulder.  When he didn’t immediately respond, I left the classroom.

Emma, Madison, Sophia and a half dozen other girls were standing in the hall, waiting for me.

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

42 thoughts on “Insinuation 2.3

  1. Well, I must say I didn’t like this chapter. I think I am having a psychological tension between a girl who thinks that she can be a superhero and who can’t even reach over and grab a paper back from another girl in the middle of class.

    Of course, it has been a long, long time since I was in high school with its bizarre, irrational social situations and pressure. But, having been a ‘Greg’ type I am surprised at his silence when the paper was stolen.

    I didn’t like the second introduction, and drop, of ‘oh, wow, yes, I’m supposed to get in trouble today.’

    All in all a down chapter for me… in a good book🙂

    • Heh I met a few people like that through highscool, hilarious now that they are working a service job. Heard one or two of them even made it into a college only not to be able to finish.

    • I don’t like the character’s situation either, however when you’re in a school setting and not allowed to beat the tar out of the little “special snowflakes” the your up a certain creek without a paddle.

      • As someone who has many socially anxious tendencies, I connect so much with Taylor’s situation (obviously I don’t have a superpower, but..) You said that you were more of a “greg” so its understandable that the contradiction between cape Taylor and school Taylor wouldn’t make sense to you, but its actually very realistic. (Fr example, in some situations, such as political debates in class, I can stick up for my views loudly and assertively, even if I’m arguing against “popular” kids. However, if I’m forced to be in a group with the same “popular” people and they ask to copy my work, I wouldn’t be able to say no, even if it annoyed me). A less extreme example, but the point still stands. Social anxiety isn’t really logical.

  2. A little bit of dissonance there, huh? That’s intentional, and gets touched on at a later point. Ditto for most of the other things you’ve pointed out in prior chapters. As I can’t really elaborate or explain my rationale for something without giving stuff away, I feel sort of helpless to respond to your comments, even as I appreciate the critiques for the feedback they are.

    If you are enjoying the story, I encourage you to continue reading and see how things come together. Not everything that is brought up is resolved or answered right away. For my part, I’ll see about trying to make sure the individual entries are more capable of standing on their own.

    • This comment exchange is a great example of something I love.

      I love how you allow people to vent their (for the most part uninformed) critiques from limited viewpoints, knowing full well that most — if not all — of their dissonance’s are addressed/resolved further on in the series.

      It kind of mirrors life where we can be frustrated with a problem or experience, only to realize in retrospect the importance of it’s existence.

    • I have recently completed the series and now, returning to this, I remember that this dissonance was a substantial source of frustration for me. Instead of realistic internal contradiction, it seemed like poor character writing. Of course now I know better, but I do think Taylor, with how thoughtful and introspective she is, should have some sort of internal thought process of lamenting how helpless she allows herself to be, which is in such stark contrast to what she recently discovered she was capable of as a cape. In this way, I think acknowledging the dissonance could help readers reconcile it.

      • The problem is that Taylor acknowledging the dissonance implies that Taylor hasn’t accepted her school situation, which has been going on for some time. There’s probably some way to address the dissonance, but I don’t think that’s it.

  3. Oh, don’t worry about it, I’m used to it. Russ used to do the same thing to me. Sometimes the items would resolve themselves, sometimes they wouldn’t. I have the same issue when people comment on my stories.

    Hopefully my comments will allow you to improve, even if you can’t answer me🙂 Personally I find the double repetition of ‘I’m probably in trouble’ just to be annoying, and it will take a lot for me to ‘excuse’ that. And some of my other dissonance may be that I hate high school, always have.

  4. Ok, I seriously don’t mean to be that person who always gets nitpicky about wording and stuff, but in paragraph 5 I think there’s supposed to be a “was” in the line “… or how miserable group work when you didn’t identify…”

  5. I still love the story though… I really enjoy superhero stories that don’t feel obligated to have fights/action in almost every chapter. Stories like yours, which stop to show “normal” stuff, have better pacing and character development, in my opinion.

  6. Oh, don’t worry about it in the slightest, Allison. I appreciate the minor corrections that make stuff more readable. I’ve been a speed reader/skimmer since I was old enough to read, which is great when it comes to zipping through stuff and taking away the relevant details, but it makes it tricky to spot the little errors.

    Glad you’re enjoying the story.

  7. Just thought I’d write a comment to say that I’ve read through your archive so far and enjoyed it.

    I write my own serial, and find comments/criticism sometimes useful and sometimes not. It’s definitely useful when people are noting spelling, missed words, and grammar mistakes. It’s sometimes useful with the sort of criticisms you get in a writing group. Some help (redundant bits) and some don’t (accurately noting something you deliberately put in, and assuming it’s a mistake).

    With mine, I occasionally get scientific observations about whether or not something could actually happen. That amuses me as I’m writing a superhero serial, and I tend to assume it’s all impossible. I just try to make the side effects of the impossible stuff logical.

    That, and try to make the emotional consequences of being in the situations the characters are in realistic. That’s the more important part, I think. From what I’ve seen of this serial, you’re doing a good job of that.

  8. Hooray for rereads! I found a minor error in this chapter, the line “I didn’t much done,” is missing a get.

    Also, looking back, this is really the first big sign we see of Taylor’s descent. That line about having to start somewhere for things to get better really is early Taylor’s big problem. She refuses to take action to deal with her problems in her civilian life until it all completely falls apart. A bit more assertiveness outside of her costume and all of Brockton Bay would probably look different now.

  9. > A full minute later he was still on the same topic, even though I wasn’t playing any attention to him or giving him any feedback on what he was saying,

    Should “playing any attention” be “paying any attention”? It would make more sense that way.

    • Seconded… this is still in the text as I read it today. BTW, this is my first time through your serial / novel, and I am enjoying the read.

  10. I wish she’d just turn evil already and get revenge on Madison. That would be so satisfying. Sorry, I think my high school experiences are showing. Mostly I’m just posting this because every single comment I’ve posted was addressed, like, in the very next chapter. Can you blame a guy for trying?

  11. Great story but I’ve decided to nitpick since this is fun. I wonder if its just me but the homework stealing part seems a bit dated. If your doing out of school work you usually print it which involves putting your name and date in the margins. Handwriting is similarly distinctive so by presenting the list in a public list Mr G should notice, resulting in Julia exposing herself.

    • Except it was just a presentation, meaning the teacher would never see the handwritten work itself, just hear what the group had come up with, meaning that as far as Mr. G knows, Julia did the assignment.

      These are the sort of assignments I hated in high school, where the people who cared would actually do the work (Taylor) and the slackers would just mooch off their group members (Greg, Julia, etc.).

  12. Unsure if Wildbow still pays attention to these, but it seemed worth a try. In 1.01, Mr. Gladly’s class is the one they have right before lunch, but here it seems to be second period. An inconsistency? They have really long class blocks? Different schedule for different days of the week? Unsure how that reconciles.

  13. I just started reading this story and I do not know how Taylor will turn out. But I do want to say that this is well done and really is a light on the bullying situation that has been in our schools for decades. A bullied student can’t win. The system the bullies are using ensures that. had Taylor fought for her paper then it would mysteriously vanish or would be sweetly claimed to belong to one of the popular girls. So Taylor would be publicly humiliated if she tried for help. If she tries any real aggression, then she will be sent off for discipline and the bullies laugh because no evidence of their wrong doing will surface. Your options are brutal violence to those around you or yourself. Or endure and hope the cycle ends after highschool.

    • Break their spines when nobody’s around and there aren’t any cameras watching. Or at least try, bullies have a habit of leaving you alone after you make it very apparent that you aren’t afraid to disembowel them and strangle them with their own intestines.
      Trust me, by the end of four years my bullies were afraid that one day I was going to come in and kill everyone with a pencil and a pop can, and I never had to raise a hand to any of them.
      Taylor never fought back to any substantial level, she never showed enough spine or crazy to be removed from the target list.

  14. Spelling/Grammar

    “I made an attempt at trying to to salvage things” should of course only have one “to”

    I’ve got a list of these I’m going back to comment on, but by way of also providing feedback it goes without saying (or rather with only saying this repasted message) that I’ve loved every chapter.

  15. “That was that. Short of running to the teacher and complaining, I wasn’t going to get my work back, and anyone who considered that an option has clearly never been in high school. ”

    Only been out of High School for ~3 years, but I can’t really agree with Taylor here. Mind you, things never got as bad for me as they did for Taylor… (It’s not complaining, it’s telling him that another student took my work and won’t give it back!)

  16. To be honest, this chapter made me deeply uncomfortable, since Taylor’s thought processes are so deeply alien to me I couldn’t get behind them. Of course, this may be because of a lack of similar experiences in my life I could use to understand her behaviour. If she were a real person and not fictional, I would assume her to be mentally disturbed.

    That said, I know that there are people in the real world who could plausibly act this way, I just never met them. (If something like what Madison pulled happened at one of my schools, it would have sparked a riot and liters of blood would have flown through the air.)

  17. Can you please, please do something about the black background? I love this story but every single time i’m reading, the white letters on black hurts my eyes =/ I would really appreciate it.

  18. Tbh when someone used to try to do that kind of crap to me in middle school/high school, I shut it down pretty quick by making a scene.
    One time some upper-classman stole an anime keychain off my backpack during the tail-end of a fire drill. A friend of mine pointed out that it was gone and I started screaming. Like, not wordless shrieking, but enraged demands.
    “WHO TOOK IT?” I bellowed, causing the ambient conversation to slowly come to a stop as head turned. I look back to my friend. “DID YOU SEE WHO IT WAS?”
    He shrunk a bit from the attention and my rage. “I don’t know who it was, I just saw him take it.”
    I seethed. I’d bought that Grimmjow keychain at the only convention I’d ever been to, Toracon 2011, and it was a reminder of one of the last happy experiences I had with my first female crush. I refused to have it taken away from me by an immature middle-class straight boy’s idea of a prank. “Point. Him. Out. To. Me.”
    “I don’t see him! He walked away!”
    “WHICH WAY?”
    At this point, lunchroom monitors were working their way towards me. I wouldn’t learn for another two years or so that I was displaying all the signs of a girl ready to rip out someone’s throat. They were on fight alert, ready to call authorities to separate me from my prey.
    Fortunately, my friend understood how I work. I’m harmless. Physically. It was my tongue that did the punching. I was a whole lot of bark and zero bite. So, he didn’t try to calm me down or defuse me, he just kept directing my anger until we found its source.
    So eventually I had a little clearing around me. Some people chose to stand and watch while others were seated at their tables. At one of those tables, a group of boys – juniors or seniors by my guess – sat facing outwards, towards the bubble of emptiness formed by my unbridled fury. One of them had this smile on his face like he’d just been pulled over by the cops with weed in the car and knew he was screwed. His friends were looking at him like they’d left him for the dogs just to see how big of a mess he’d make.
    “That’s him,” my friend pointed out.
    The kid stuck his hand in the pocket of his basketball shorts and gave me back my Grimmjow keychain.
    But I wasn’t done.
    Now, to my own credit, I made a conscious effort not to swear, since I knew there were adults present and I didn’t want to get in trouble.
    “What the hell is wrong with you? How old are you? Are you seven? Are you twelve? Do we need to put you back in elementary school? You’re a high schooler, damn it! You’re nearly an adult and you think it’s appropriate to do things like steal keychains off of younger girls’ backpacks? I’m so COMPLETELY disappointed in you! You’re an upperclassmen! ACT LIKE IT!” I raged.
    I didn’t even know this kid’s name and I just embarrassed him in front of the biggest study hall of the day.
    After I stormed off, the crowd dispersed and I went off to my next class, still on the tail end of an adrenaline high.
    Needless to say, I think the lunch ladies gained some respect for me after that day. I apparently screamed something that they had wanted to for years.
    A similar occurrence happened my senior year when an underclassman stuck a period pad to my ass while I was wearing to blood-drop suit to campaign for the blood drive. Didn’t find the perp but jokes on them because my teacher nominated me for a scholarship for my dedicated work and I got a boatload of money.
    Where was I going with this? Yeah. Embarrass your bullies by exposing their bullshit. Works okay.
    But beyond that, even as someone who was consistently bullied throughout my schooling, never has ANYTHINGT come anywhere near to what Taylor experiences. I find it hard to relate with her lack of outrage or lack of desire to report it to those in charge. It’s their job to prevent these things and as a student its within her right to REMIND them that it’s their job I mean… Okay, I got scary in highschool and became a bit of an assertive bitch, but… If you’ve got the guts to attack a superhuman criminal with a swarm of bugs, why can’t you muster up the balls to complain until something is done?
    I’m sorry if I took this and ran. I just really like telling that story.

  19. Editorial:

    – «Mr Gladly entered the room, he was short and young enough you could almost mistake him for another high school student.» Kind of a splice sentence (awkward comma); also Mr should have a period.
    – «“This is really good, Taylor,” He said, when he was done.» “He” should be lowercase.

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