Under the Bridge
· Knopf Books for Young Readers
· eBook · November 13, 2012 · $7.99 · 978-0-375-89642-2 (0-375-89642-2)
Also available as a trade paperback.
“This is not a drill. Please exit the school to your designated target areas immediately.”
I looked up at the intercom as the tired voice of Vice Principal Lackard echoed through the halls. If there was concern in that tinny voice, it was masked by complete indifference. Maybe a hidden wish that one of these times it would turn out to be real and that this school would end up being a shrapneled example of what went wrong with our youth. Of what went wrong with this world. “Such a terrible loss,” he’d say, splaying his hands and shaking his head to the news cameras while behind him the smoking ruins of our fine institution collapsed upon themselves.
Then he’d go home, sit on his back porch, his wife would hand him a gin and tonic, and he’d tell her we deserved every last piece of rubble. You could see it in his eyes when he walked down the hall. Guys today don’t shoot spitballs and gather after school for the occasional fistfight. They punch teachers, stomp heads, sell dope, pack heat, and make pipe bombs. I didn’t blame the guy. We’re pretty fucked up as generations go.
I walked from my locker, my pack over my shoulder and my board in my hands. No English today. I glanced at the clock above the exit as I shouldered my way through masses of students pressing for the doors; half of them bug-eyed, the other half accustomed to evacuations and looking forward to sixth period being cut from the schedule. I could hear the sirens already. This was becoming routine.
“Lemmings on the march.”
I turned, and Sid, long black hair in his eyes, deck slung through his pack, skintight straight-leg jeans outlining his bony knees, sauntered toward me. We walked closer to our designated herding area. “Bomb threat, right?” I said, wondering if this one might be different. Alien invasion. The president visiting. Something to look at besides three thousand students streaming from the campus like water from a shotgunned and rusted barrel.
He grinned, looking back at the red-and-gray brick Goliath called our school. “Yep.” Either Sid Valentino could hear the whispering voices through the walls or he was psychic, but he always knew what was going on in this place. And everywhere else.
His Adam’s apple bobbed as he chuckled. “If we gotta dodge flying bodies in the next few minutes, I’d say real.”
Sirens screeched closer from the downtown core of the city, racing toward the school. In the next moment, the Spokane City Bomb Squad rolled by in some kind of Star Wars armored vehicle, black-uniformed guys hanging from the sides, studying us like we might be the next Bin Laden. “This is lame,” I said.
“Wanna hit the Monster? Piper and your bro should be there on this occasion of terrorist-inspired freedom.”
Standard evacuation procedure said that once each group of the student body reached their “target” points, buses would transport three thousand students to the Veterans Arena, five miles away, for our parents to pick us up. Disciplinary procedures would be applied to any student leaving without a parental signature. Dad would be more pissed about having to leave work than about me getting busted for what he called idiocy. We could take care of ourselves, and Dad quit being our babysitter a long time ago. “Sure. I’m not wasting the next four hours sitting in a parking lot.”
Sid smiled. “They’re just grooming us to be good refugees. It doesn’t work if nobody knows how to be refugee-ish.”
I adjusted my pack higher on my shoulder. Sid wasn’t exactly the most optimistic of people. “I can think for myself, thanks.”
He loped along next to me. “Thinking is dangerous, dude. Just blindly follow. It goes along with the grand plan of devolution.”
I laughed. “Whatever, Sid.”
A good six hundred students milled around our staging-and-transportation area as we arrived. Sid gazed at the crowd. “See, I’m right. Evolution in reverse.”
I smirked. “How?”
He laughed. “When some dumb-ass calls in a bomb threat, our incredibly brilliant leaders evacuate a fifteen-acre school to avoid a large body count, pack us all into two areas that are a quarter the size, and call it a ‘safe’ zone.”
He looked around. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t see much that makes this place safe, and I do know that any wacko with half a damn brain would call the threat in, wait till we’re all packed together here, then blow us up. He’d need half the explosives to kill twice the people.” He paused. “Devolution, man. And I don’t know who’s worse--the jackhole that came up with this plan or the idiots who follow it.”
I chuckled. Sid might have been the most dark, depressing, moody person I knew, but his logic made sense. “I suppose so.”
“I know so. Look. They think they’re safe because some tardo told them they’re safe.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re not a bomber.”
He shrugged. “People are so good at killing themselves they don’t need my help.”
Sid nodded, looking around. “I don’t feel like being stupidized any more. Let’s split.”
I nodded. “Under the Bridge?”
He unstrapped his board. “Under the Bridge it is.”
Excerpted from Under the Bridge by Michael Harmon Copyright © 2012 by Michael Harmon. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.