It was his finest work yet, Scott thought, putting the finishing strokes on Watnip’s bolo tie. Scott’s caricatures were his children, and he gave them all his love and devotion. When they were with him, he didn’t need the Glock in his father’s safe.
Not that he thought much about suicide. But it was an option to keep in reserve. Other disturbed teens shot up their schools; Scott would never harm anyone but himself. But if he went through with the act, he suspected nothing much would change, anyway. The kids in his school would keep going to class, getting high in the bathroom. Maybe they’d mention him on the morning announcements.
“Scott McNeely offed himself yesterday…” There’d be gasps, the homeroom would go quiet. A few girls would start sobbing.
“He was so young,” one would say, or “He had his whole life ahead of him,” blah blah blah. The typical stuff you heard in these situations. Then the bell would ring and everyone would rush off to first period. By the end of the day he’d be no more than a morbid footnote to junior year.
His parents would miss him, of course. His mom would set three places for dinner, then realize her mistake and feel awful. But after a while, they’d fill the void with other activities. Maybe get a baby from China, or take up ping pong.
Scott shifted the sketch pad on his lap, refining the curve of Watnip’s skull. Each subject had one standout feature which he tried to bring to life on the page. Watnip had three: bulging eyes, a terrible combover, and the bolo tie that set him apart from every other earth science teacher on Long Island. Scott gave the bolo the most attention because it was so weird.
A shadow fell on the sketchbook and Scott looked up. Watnip stood over him whirling a ball attached to a string. Scott slammed the pad shut, too late.
“McNeely! Would you care to explain centrifugal force to the class?”
Scott tried to recall what he knew about the term, which wasn’t much. Earth science was too confusing and why should he bother with plate tectonics and global warming, when he couldn’t do a thing about them? Besides creating caricatures, surviving high school was his main occupation. He tried not to waste brain cells on other tasks.
“Could you repeat the question?” Scott asked.
The class tittered, and the teacher grabbed the sketchbook and flipped to his portrait. Unruly hair framed an angry face, inspired by the Beethoven bust in the orchestra room.
“We have an artiste in our midst,” Watnip said, emphasizing the tiste. He held the picture up for the class. “This might be why you got a C first semester, McNeely. Put the charcoal away, and next time I catch you fooling around, you’ll have an F for the day.”
He thrust the sketchbook at Scott, who felt the eyes in the room like a hot light that would melt him into a puddle for the custodian to mop up. He imagined the homeroom teacher calling his name the next day, marking him absent. When he failed to reappear, his name would be stricken from the rolls, as if no Scott McNeely had ever attended De Soto High School in Muchogue Township, New York.