Hi. I'm Billy Ray and this week I'm naked in school. Yeah, the damn Program made it all the way up here to Appalachian hill country. We'd heard rumors of it being out on the east coast, but after all, they were just rumors -- right? Guess not.
On Monday of the third week in school they called an assembly in the auditorium. Up on the stage were the Principal, teaching staff and some lady none of us had ever seen before. Principal Miles started out by welcoming us all back to another year at Ridgecrest High and then proceeded to explain all about some new government-sponsored program called 'Naked In School'.
The laughter that greeted this announcement spread like ripples in a pond up until we noticed that he was standing there with this dead serious look on his face. When the laughter died down, Josh Hartman stood up and after getting acknowledged, said, "Please, tell us this is the best joke you have ever sprung on us."
With almost what I would call 'a look of loss' Principal Miles replied, "No Josh, it's not a joke. Please, sit down son and let me explain."
For the next ten minutes or so he laid out the stated 'goals' of 'The Program'. It sounded like prerecorded, utopian BS to me and his delivery was not what I would call enthusiastic. I also noticed a look creeping over his face that when combined with his body language, shouted out the intense shame he felt at having to mouth this psycho-babble horse crap. When he finally wound down, he introduced the new 'Program Councilor' Ms. Bennington.
She trotted on over to the podium and after thanking Principal Miles she turned on this thousand watt smile and said, "Hello children, I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
A pin dropping at that point would have been like a shotgun blast going off and she actually felt she had to tell us that the preceding was a joke. No one laughed though there were a few sniffles from some of the younger kids. Mostly what met that statement were the hard faced stares from the eyes of six hundred hill children, all of which were rapidly headed toward royally pissed off.
At this point Josh stood again and when Ms. Bennington recognized him, he asked, "Ma'am, may I direct a question to Principal Miles?"
After he got the nod he said, "Sir, with all due respect, you do know what's going to happen now, don't you?"
With the saddest eyes I've ever seen on a human face the Principal nodded his head once.
Josh then looked back over at Ms. Bennington and said, "Ma'am, what Principal Miles knows in his bones and you seem to have no clue about, is that the little squad of Rent-A-Cops you have stationed by the back doors don't stand a chance of making us do anything we're not willing to do, or that we choose not to do. Don't look so alarmed Ma'am. We're deer hunters, all of us, we notice everything around us."
Then without looking away from her face, Josh said, "Would everyone that agrees with my last statement please raise your right hand?"
I glanced around and saw five hundred and ninety nine arms inexorably reaching for the ceiling.
He then continued with, "Before I forget, I should mention one more thing. You see, the people sitting in front of you are our neighbors. These are the people we will have to depend on for help during the rest of our lives. In order to do that, we have to carry a deep and abiding respect for and trust, in each of them. I'm speaking about the kind of trust that allows a person to know, that each of them would lay down their lives to help the other. We also have to respect what they believe. Now, you come in here with your bright, shiny, new government program and in essence, tell us that the respect and trust we have in them is the wrong kind. But it's not. After all, it's worked for about sixteen generations so far. I reckon it will work for a few more." He then retook his seat.
The look on Ms. Bennington's face said she was shocked to her core and she was gripping the podium so hard by this time her knuckles were turning white. Her thousand watt smile had dropped to about seventy five watts as she sputtered out the rest of her address, sounding like a tape recorder on its last legs.
After she was seated again, I raised my hand and was recognized by Principal Miles. Nodding my head in thanks, I said, "Sir, you do know where we're headed on this path, right? This could wind up making Matewan look like a minor dog fight. So, before everyone starts swinging, I'd like to propose an alternative."
After getting the sign to continue, I said, "What we'd like is a chance to poll the students and see if there is an alternative to the arbitrary selection methods in place now; perhaps some kind of a 'true' lottery system. Names could be drawn by students and pass through a screening process of their peers for suitability. We'd like the chance to hold that meeting now as long as we're all assembled here anyway. What do you think? Is this workable?"
For the first time that morning, a look of hope flashed across Principal Miles face as he turned and walked over to Ms. Bennington. What followed was a somewhat heated, whispered discussion and I did catch a few choice phrases such as: 'how many bodies will it take' and 'guaranteed bloodshed this morning'.
Ms. Bennington finally took a good look around the room and I think it actually hit her that we were ready to physically resist her goon squad. I could almost hear the discourse she was having with herself, as she mentally played through this 'disaster in the making' and I believe that salvaging her career was the deciding factor for her; because it sure wasn't easing the students way into The Program that changed her mind. After gazing over the entire student body and seeing nothing but stone faced people, she turned her gaze to Principal Miles and nodded, "yes".
Principal Miles, heaving a sigh of relief, returned to the podium and asked, "How long do you think you'll need, Billy?"
Since I'd been thinking along these lines, I replied, "About a half hour to forty five minutes tops, Sir."
"All right son. We'll give you the forty five minutes. Just notify one of the door guards if it takes less time," He responded. Then turning to face the staff, he said, "OK folks let's give these ladies and gentlemen some privacy for their deliberations." With that: he, the staff and finally a scowling Ms. Bennington filed off the stage and out the door.
I expected a low level murmur to rise and was just a bit taken aback when I looked at five hundred and ninety nine pairs of eyes staring at me!
'Ah shit!' Passed through my mind and then I buckled down to get this done.
Figuring to 'spread the blame a bit' if this went south, I called up Sally Ewing, the student body President, to help with organizing what was to come.
We did have about a fifteen minute debate with some other ideas tossed out for consideration. But, lucky me, in the end my 'lottery' idea was adopted 'as stated'. We did add one little twist though. The lottery 'drawers' were also going to be on a random basis. That way we figured no one would be tempted to abuse the office. We then had everyone write their names and grades on pieces of paper and gathered them on stage for the initial draw.
First drawn were that week's drawers, then the 'vetting' members and finally that week's lucky winners. Since none of the names drawn were 'vetted' out, no one - except us on stage - knew who the winners were yet. I returned to the podium and asked if everyone was satisfied with the fairness of what had happened. Getting an affirmative response, I signaled Ralph Lowe to let the staff know we were done.
They filed back in and I handed the winners slips to Principal Miles. He took the podium and dismissed everyone to their classes after reading the list of the eight participants for the week. Yes, I was on the list. Oh joy.
When the rest of the students had filed out, our group-of-eight was called to the front of the auditorium, handed pamphlets, shown our boxes and asked to strip down. After putting our clothing in the boxes we were told we could pick them up out front of the school at the end of the day.
Ms. Bennington looked like she was back in her element as she laid out all the basic rules and then started prattling on about the male participants getting relief during the first five minutes of every class; as if this was some super important point. At this time the senior male participant, Hank Higgins, asked what for and produced the most intense look of shock I've ever seen on an adult face, including the one she had just shown at the podium not forty minutes before.
When she recovered a bit, Ms. Bennington stated it was to relive our sexual tension.
With a puzzled look Hank responded, "What sexual tension, Ma'am?"
I guess that's when Ms. Bennington finally looked down below waist level and realized none of the male participants were hard. She reminded me greatly of a trout gasping out its last breath as she screeched out, "How can you be standing next to naked females and not be aroused!?!"
Hank just looked back, with his puzzlement going deeper yet and said, "Ma'am, didn't you hear a word Josh said?"
"Of course I heard him. I just didn't for a second, believe him." She retorted.
I could see the thunder gathering in Hank's face at this statement, so I jumped in with, "Ma'am, you should have believed every word he said to you. You see, we don't lie to ourselves, or each other and we won't lie to you. Every word Josh spoke was the complete, unvarnished God's truth. By the end of today you will have witnessed it for yourself. Besides all of which, calling one of us a liar is a darn good way to find your butt end in a blood feud real fast."
Principal Miles slid himself into the stunned silence then by dismissing us to our classes.
I'll admit, it was a bit strange to be walking the halls bare naked, but no worse than the first time I'd gone skinny dipping. Heck, it was just air instead of water flowing over Jr. and The Twins.
I started thinking about what Josh had been trying to get across to Ms. 'Thousand Watt' and even though I knew what he'd meant in my bones, I still couldn't put it into words. Maybe it was kindness. No, no, that was the result of what we had gone through, not the cause. Oh well, I'd just keep thinking about it and the words would come eventually.
Since assembly had taken up home room period and our meeting had eaten up most of first period, I ducked into the tail end of my first period history class. Arriving there, I nodded hello to Miss. Jennings and took my seat.
Miss. Jennings, with a somewhat distressed look cleared her throat and said, "Billy, I'm afraid I can't offer you relief, as it is passed the first five minutes. Will you be OK?"
"Well, thank you kindly Ma'am, but that won't be needed." I responded.
The rest of the period went fairly smooth and before I knew it I was out in the halls again. This time of course, the halls were full of students heading for their next classes. It didn't take long for me to begin feeling like one half of the invisible man. Because, no matter whom I had to stop and speak to; they would not willingly look below my waist line.
Second period English with Mr. Sales was a repeat. Same song, different verse only with correct: grammar, sentence structure, POV and tense. No, I didn't take relief.
When I got to third period biology, I was the first student in the door. Miss. Connors was sitting at her desk and asked to speak with me stating, "Billy, please forgive me, but I need your participation in class today. I was given a lesson plan and told in no uncertain terms, that my job was on the line if it was not followed to the letter. Some touching by the other students will be required. Can you do this for me?"
Now, Miss. Connors is a very pretty lady in her mid-twenties and certainly not hard on the eyes. I knew it would be no hardship to have her use me as a 'demo' model. Heck, it might even be a bit of fun. So I looked her in the eye and said, "Ma'am, I'd be proud to serve."
The look of tension fleeing from her face, followed by that dazzling smile, was a true sight to behold. I swear that her eyes got a bit misty as she said, "Thank you Billy. You have no idea how much I appreciate this."
The final bell rang as she stood and addressed the class, "Class, today I was given a lesson plan to follow. In it, we will be studying and demonstrating Male Sexual Response. Billy has graciously agreed to serve as today's model. He has also given blanket permission to you all, so you may fulfill the lesson requirements. We will begin by asking Billy if he needs relief."
"Well, no Ma'am, not quite yet anyway, but thanks for asking," I replied.
There were a few giggles from the back of the room at this.
A slight blush slid across her face and she said, "Very well then, please take the seat by my desk facing the class and I'll go through the listed series of questions."
As I sat, she asked, "Billy, do you masturbate?"
"Yes Ma'am, at times."
"How often do you do it?"
"Near as I can recall, about once or twice a week Ma'am."
At this statement her head snapped up from the paper she was reading and she gasped out, "What! Are you sure that's correct?"
"Yes Ma'am, I'm pretty sure. I was there every time."
Amid the chorus of snickers this cut loose, she shook her head like a dog shaking water from his coat. Then a small smile crawled slowly over her face as she said, "Yes, I suppose you were." Looking back at her list she asked, "And what were you thinking of just before each of those times?"
"I was thinking of my beloved, Ma'am."
I heard her slightly gasp at this and I would have sworn it sounded like a low pitched, "Oh God." When her eyes rose from the paper again, there was definite moisture in their corners. She blinked twice, gulped once and lowered her eyes to the next question.
"Is there any special method you use to masturbate?"
"No Ma'am, I normally lightly stroke Jr., while I think about how much I long to show her my love."
"Are you able to bring on an erection at will?" she asked, with her voice trailing off in what sounded like a low moan.
"Yes Ma'am, I can do that," I replied and closed my eyes, picturing Jenny Carson with her golden hair begging to be stroked and her eyes like mirrored mountain lakes of the deepest azure. In my mind I uncovered and gently kissed her shell like ears. I then trailed my kisses slowly down her body far enough to wind up in the place that would give her the most pleasure. As my eyes reopened, I was not surprised to see my seven and one half inch pole at full mast. An involuntary, "Oh God, I love you," slipped from my lips and at the same time I noticed Miss. Connors leaning her pudenda against her desk corner while making tiny circular motions with her hips.
After she regained her composure, Miss Connors turned to the class and said, "All right folks. This is the part of the lesson that is interactive. I want you all to line up and one by one pass by Billy. You may look, or you may touch and you can say anything you like."
I don't know how many variations of, 'I wish I was her' or 'Lucky girl' I heard over the next fifteen minutes. I also don't know how many times my cheek got kissed or my shoulder got patted, but it was a lot. Heck, Becky Thomas even gently rubbed my abdominal muscles while she whispered, "Oh God, I wish."
As Becky was withdrawing her hand I reached out and took it in mine. Looking into her eyes, I said, "Becky, you know that Jimmy Miller would set his cap for you, at the least encouragement."
"Really?" she whispered back with the same look you'd expect to get by telling her there was a real treasure map in her book bag.
"Yes, really," I whispered back through my indelible grin.
The next thing I knew I had Becky draped around my neck and machinegun kissing my cheek while she tossed in as many thanks as possible.
Miss. Connors looked over at me after everyone was seated again and in almost a pleading tone asked, "Billy, do you need relief now?"
"Only if it is a needed part of the lesson plan, Ma'am. Otherwise, no, it will go down on its own. At least it always has before," I stated with the trace of a grin still on my lips.
About then the bell rang and Miss. Connors asked me to stay for a minute. After everyone had left, she said, "Billy, you know that I have only been residing and teaching here for two years now. I have to apologize deeply to you here. What you showed in class today was one of the most intense demonstrations of self-control I have ever witnessed. To my shame, I have to admit that my own control was sub-par ... at best. Can you ever forgive me?"
Well, what could I do? I opened my arms, bent over and gave her a gentle hug and kiss on the cheek while I whispered, "Ma'am, of course I can forgive you. You said you were coerced into this lesson and we all love you in any case. Thank you for making this bearable as I know it wasn't your intention to make this a trial."
As I headed out the door, I glanced back into the room in time to catch Miss. Connors laying her head on her desk, supported by her crossed arms as her shoulders began to shake.
Since I had fourth period lunch, I headed that way and slipped into the back of the line. I chatted with a few people while waiting and as I got near the serving line it dawned on me that I had no money on me. I was reaching over to put my tray back on the stack, when Ms. 'Cheerleader' Bennington showed up in my face, gushing, "I see you have run into another benefit of the program. Students in The Program eat lunch for free."
I draped a mildly shocked expression on my face and then decided to push her buttons a bit. Drumming up my own goofy smile, I said, "Golly jeepers, Ms. Bennington, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have no idea how much of a comfort it is to know that there really and truly is ... a free lunch." I think she got the point as I saw her eyes narrow while her smile stayed plastered in place.
Passing along the line I noticed that today was Navy Bean day. I got a double serving as I had a tentative plan for those beans. When I got to the cashier, I thanked Mrs. Lombard for the fine hot lunch they had worked so hard to prepare. As she made eye contact a smile lit her face and she told me I was very welcome. I also saw her smile widen a bit as her eyes slid over to the posturing Ms. Bennington who was still staring daggers at my back. Yep, she'd got that point too and must have approved. That sure made me feel all warm inside.
As I left the serving line I spotted a few friends sitting together with an open spot. So I strolled on over and asked to join them. Of course, they said sure and we proceeded to chat and chow down.
Glen Williams noticed my pile of beans and commented on them. I grinned and said I had plans for the critters. Everyone seemed to think that was a really fine idea and you couldn't have gotten the smiles off their faces with air-hammers after I whispered my first draft plan to the table.
I then noticed Ms. Bennington standing over by the doorway with a perplexed look on her face. I casually glanced around the lunchroom and everything looked fine to me. Then it finally dawned on me that what she was seeing was not, 'par-for-the-course' according to The Program. As I kept watching, her perplexed look gave way to a slight frown and finally morphed into an out and out truly fierce scowl.
It suddenly hit me that we weren't playing by the social rules she was expecting to see displayed. There were five of us 'Program' kids in the lunchroom and all of us were sitting individually with groups of our friends. We were chatting, eating and in some cases, studying together. Nowhere, was there anyone being harassed, humiliated, or hit up for 'Reasonable Requests'. Here she was, expecting to see a moderately traumatized group of 'Program Kids' huddled together and trying to support each other. No wonder she was scowling. That attitude and her reaction to what she was seeing branded her as an outsider far more than any neon sign flashing from her forehead ever could have.
That was the instant that 'the words' crashed through from my subconscious and I knew exactly what made us different from every other group of 'Program Kids' she'd ever seen.
What it boiled down to was that we had traveled a very different road to get here than anyone Ms. Grinning Baboon had ever run into. Why, none of us could anymore do an 'RR' on a fellow student, than we could jump twenty feet in the air and do a back flip. It would have been the grossest sort of insult to the 'cauldron of the Hills' all of us had endured to become what we were at that point. Several Armed Services had called this 'E'spirit de Corps' and it fit us like a glove.
This was going to take quite a bit of thinking to come up with the correct delivery to make the message stick. It was a good thing that a nice mindless period of Gym was next on my schedule.
As I was headed toward fifth period Gym, I had to pass right by the door to the teacher's lounge. About half way passed the door I overheard a voice raised in anger. Stopping for a second I listened closely and finally recognized the voice of Principal Miles as he hissed out at someone, "Listen to me you stupid little officious twit. Do you have even the slightest idea why that auditorium burst into laughter this morning when I first announced The Program?"
At this, I heard a mumbled response followed by Principal Miles other barrel. "No madam, it was not nervous, teenage laughter. It was quite simply honest to God amusement, because no one that had been raised around here could have taken it for anything else but a huge joke. I also want you to think about something else while you're at it. Think about how long you and your rent-a-cop storm troopers would have lasted if we hadn't diffused that situation. I'd have given all of you about five, or maybe ten minutes tops. No, I'm not kidding. What you did in there was the equivalent of walking up to each one of those people and spitting in their faces. Imagine how you'd react if a stranger did that to you."
Again, I heard a mumbled response and then something that sounded like a huge sigh. This was followed by, "I give up. You just flat out don't get it, do you? All right, go right ahead and keep pushing Ms. Bennington and may God have mercy on your soul, because no one else around here will."
As I headed off to gym again, I kept mulling over what I started thinking of as 'Our Message'. Yes, that's exactly what it was. It was 'Our Message' in answer to 'The Program'. I was still mentally looking at options and discarding them when I walked into the girl's locker room.
I was just a bit distracted by my thoughts and I'll admit it startled me badly to be exposed to all these lovely ladies in various states of undress. Before I could catch it, my tool began to respond. The shame of this involuntary reaction hit me like a ton of bricks and with a very red face I stammered out my apology to the room. It must have been well received, as I got back several giggles and quite a few kisses on the cheek along with many murmured thank you' s when they passed through the gym door.
Gym itself consisted of jumping jacks, sit ups and so forth, followed by laps around the track. My Twins were aching badly by the time that Coach McKinsey blew his whistle for shower time and I actually asked him if it was possible to wear a cup or jockstrap for gym. He answered that it was against The Program rules, but he promised to pass my request up the food chain.