Boone: The Forgotten – Chapter 1
Boone Tackett sat with his elbow on the desk and his hand pressed firmly against his head. Ten minutes, he thought glancing up at the clock. He leaned back in his chair and blew one of his black curls away from his forehead. Tilting his head sideways, he could see that the other twenty-six students were busy at work on their first Algebra test of the new school year. He looked back down at his paper, only four more problems to go. Math had never been hard for him before, but he believed he needed a miraculous revelation in order to solve the mathematical mysteries set before him now.
Freshman year had not started off well for Boone. Here, two middle schools had merged together to form one colossal high school. Everyday he would walk through the waves of upperclassman in a struggle to locate his desired destination, reminding himself that eventually this would get easier. Boone would never admit that once or twice he had gotten lost and had to ask a janitor or random teacher for directions. In middle school, he knew everyone and he felt like everyone knew him. Now, it was a rare occurrence when he would see one of his fellow former eighth graders in the school’s wide hallways. He was almost to the point where he didn’t care who it was; he would wave, hoping someone would notice and wave back.
On the second day of school Boone had spent most of third and fourth period in the guidance office begging his freshman counselor to rearrange his schedule. “It has to be easier than this!” he had insisted. The attempt was in vain as his counselor, Mr. Arnold, a stout man with a badly thinning hairline, had explained to Boone that every other freshman was feeling exactly the same way.
“Mr. Tackett,” Mr. Arnold said stuffily, while wiping his drippy nose with a previously used pocket-handkerchief, “your eighth grade transcript is very good. You had great grades, you were involved, your teachers gave you high evaluations, and it seems to me you were quite the leader.”
Boone had sat up taller in his seat when he heard the word “leader”. He knew that he was a leader, but was sure that Mr. Arnold had no idea how much of a leader he really was.
“You will be fine, like all the others,” the faintly ill man had said before shutting the manila folder that contained Boone’s educational history.
Five more minutes, Boone thought checking the clock again as he recalled the conversation with his counselor. He felt like the algebraic word problems on the photocopied paper were snickering at his frustration. He averaged his grade on the test if he left them blank, assuming he had gotten all the others correct. It wasn’t good. A “D” would have him homebound for the rest of the month. He hurriedly worked through the unsolved problems on the side of his paper. The bell was going to ring any second. He squinted at the numbers, then wrote down his answers and flipped the paper over. Maybe he would get some credit for at least trying. If he could pull out a “C”, he knew that he would not have to face the “we’re not happy” speech from his mom and dad, but instead get the “you can do better” lecture.
The electronic beep, beep, beep announced the end of first period and a seven minute travel time to his next class. Boone gathered his books, pencils and notebooks; picked up his test, and carried it to the teacher’s desk along with the other students. He thought it strange that there wasn’t at least one person from his middle school in any of his classes. He quietly suspected that this was the doing of Mr. Arnold, who in Boone’s mind saw him as another muddled freshman.
Essentially, Boone felt altogether overlooked. Because of the added homework taken on by Noel and Jeff, choir practice for Case, and basketball for Wayne, he only saw his friends on Sunday and Wednesday nights for church. Not only did they not have so much as a physical education or art class together, they didn’t even share the same lunchtime. Somehow they had all been scheduled for lunch at the same time, except for Boone; another Mr. Arnold make-them-fend-for-themselves conspiracy he assumed. The one person that appeared to not have forgotten Boone was his former eighth grade Language Arts teacher.
“Smile Mr. Tackett,” the cool voice of Ms. Shelly welcomed him as he entered her classroom. “Frowning is not good for the soul.” On the first day of school Boone had nearly collapsed in the doorway when he saw that she had taken an open position at the high school after the former Freshman English teacher had decided that teaching first graders might suite her better. Eighth grade had ended well, even with a surprising “A” in her class. She had pushed him to his literary limits, had pulled every ounce of creativity out of him, and made him so scared, angry, and confident at the same time that he often questioned whether or not he was the one pumping out all those adjectives. On the last day of eighth grade he had thought he would miss her, but what he had realized was that it was as if a yoke had been lifted from his shoulders. But now, she was back, and so was the yoke. She would have the same deviant expectations of him and he knew it.
Boone took his seat and opened his three-ring-binder to the questions he had answered on Milton’s Paradise Lost for homework. In a way, Boone felt sorry for the others in the class, not one of them had her the previous year. They have no idea what they are in for, he had thought.
Ms. Shelly did expect more from her students. She didn’t put up with missing assignments, or messy work. Early on Boone had learned that the frilly edges of torn out notebook paper absolutely made her beyond crazy. He personally could care less about the tiny edges, but apparently she did. On the second day of school a sun-bleached blond girl, by the name of Hannah, had decided not to heed Ms. Shelly’s warning by ripping her “Tell Me about Yourself” essay straight from the spiral notebook in which it had been written. At the sound of the breaking paper the class had instantly became eerily silent. Ms. Shelly and her cool gray eyes turned from the white dry erase board and scanned the room slowly hunting for their prey. “Whomever removed their work in such an obscene manner will refrain from handing it in. If there is anyone else who cannot take pride in his or her work, as to rip it out of a notebook, will refrain as well. Is that clear?” Her words were chilling, even to Boone who knew they had not been directed at him. He knew better.
“Yes, Ma’am,” the class had chimed in unison. Boone had felt sorry for Hannah; he had made that same mistake last year. This year, however, he was well versed in the order of Ms. Shelly. He had expected to stand out among the others, especially with the wisdom he possessed from the previous year, but like each of his other classes he seemed to blend in. It was as if the year before had been a complete waste of time. Ms. Shelly treated him like all the other students. He felt like she might have had to relearn his name, but he sincerely doubted that. Ms. Shelly didn’t seem to forget anything.
The fluorescent lighting highlighted the faint blue lines of his loose-leaf notebook paper. He carefully studied his answers. There was a time when he would be afraid to be called on, especially by her, but not now. Not after the extremely unordinary events of last year. Boone was confident in who he was, like his counselor had reminded him, he was a leader.
“Miss Marcell,” Ms. Shelly’s unemotional voice called, “in your words enlighten me on the temptation of man according to John Milton.”
There was an awkward stillness in the room as Hannah Marcell stammered her answer, “Um, the snake, I think, came to the woman, and um told her to eat the fruit.” Boone became nervous for her; he understood the uneasiness she was feeling. “And the woman…”
“Thank you, Miss Marcell,” Ms. Shelly interrupted ending the girls mental torture. “In your own words is precisely that, your own words, however you have to have at least read and made an effort to understand the reading. Milton is not an easy read, that is why it is your opinion that I desire.” Boone raised his hand, hoping that his confidence would relieve the others of the anxiety they were experiencing about being called on. “Ah, Mr. Tackett, would you like to enlighten the class.”
Boone tried not to let his excitement show. Too much emotion, and he was afraid she would have the upper hand. “God had told man not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was kind of their only rule. So Satan used that against them by using man’s relationship with God, saying that if they ate of it they would become like God, and that God didn’t want them to be like Him, knowing all about good and evil. It was actually the woman that Satan tempted first, you know, as the snake, and then he used her to tempt man.” Boone paused waiting for Ms. Shelly to comment or cue him to go on. She stared at him expressionless and unreactive. He cleared his throat and proceeded. “I believe that maybe God had intended for man to always live in the garden and have that kind of life, with God, but man would have to be away from evil, so that’s what made the snake’s, I mean Satan’s lie work. It seemed believable, but it wasn’t that God didn’t want them to be like Him, it was that He loved them so much that He didn’t want them to know the darkness that came with that knowledge. That’s my opinion.”
The classroom was silent except for the hum of the electric lighting. Boone had done his homework. He knew the answer was right. He had enjoyed studying Paradise Lost. It reminded him so much of the garden.
“Interesting, Mr. Tackett. Do you attend church?”
“Yes ma’am,” Boone said proudly.
“I thought so, because that was a very Sunday school answer,” she said sarcastically, walking up and down the rows of engrossed students. “Class, what I want to know is the temptation according to John Milton, not what you have learned in church.” A new anger burned in Boone, he hadn’t felt that before. Was it pride? He couldn’t let her sarcasm invade him like that. Boone’s hand shot up. “What is it, Mr. Tackett?”
“History tells us that John Milton was a Christian, so his interpretation would be the same as what many of us are taught in church. He may have been blind, but he knew the Bible. So the temptation of man, to him, would basically be as it is to me. He just added a bunch of details to make it um, more, um…”
“More fantastical, Mr. Tackett?” Ms. Shelly helpfully interrupted stopping by his desk.
“No, more real!” Boone said excited.
“Very good, Mr. Tackett,” she whispered to Boone. His heart beat fast. A new rush of energy flooded through him. “Class, not only did Boone defend his opinion, he successfully backed it up with information from our discussion yesterday. Nice work Boone, way to bring the Bible into the public school system.” He couldn’t tell if she really meant that or if she was once again showing her skill at irony.
Boone had learned about the fall of man in Sunday school. He remembered how it was on that particular Sunday that his life began to change. He had started to see things that others could not see, and hear people talking to him that weren’t there. At first, Boone believed he was going crazy, but as he started to uncover clues about the fairy tale in his church’s stained glass windows, the world of legend became reality. It had not been easy for he and his friends to find. They had spent what felt like days exploring the cave system that ran underneath the town, unearthing clues and challenges that eventually led him to taking an unplanned leap from a waterfall straight into the heart of the most beautiful garden he had ever seen.
Now as he sat in class listening to Ms. Shelly unearth John Milton’s depiction of the Garden of Eden in Paradise Lost, he couldn’t help but let his mind wander to the time he had spent away. He wanted to go back, but he knew that his return was not up to him. The time was coming soon when he would be reunited with the place where he had learned who he really was, he could sense it. It made him anxious and reminded him that he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. He had one reoccurring vision since he and his friends had returned from the Mishpachah, and it was always the same: hundreds of people outside his small country church, pounding on the windows and begging to come inside, but as hard as he tried, he couldn’t find a way to let them in. Lately, the vision had become more frequent.
Boone wondered if Ms. Shelly would ever feel the call to the garden. Maybe she had and didn’t understand what it was. He imagined her there with a hoe in hand working diligently alongside Boone trying to remove the weeds from a row of cucumbers as he showed her which to pull, and how to discern the different fragrances in the air. Yeah right, he chuckled to himself.
“Mr. Tackett!” Ms. Shelly called loudly drawing his mind from the garden and back to class. “We are not writing a creative piece at this point, so please refrain from daydreaming in my room. Is that understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Boone stammered embarrassed.
“Now, as I was asking. Since you are our resident expert on the Bible, please inform the class why Satan tempted man?”
Boone could think of one simple reason. “Because he was jealous.” Ms. Shelly smirked and went on, not acknowledging his answer. Boone found it odd that she didn’t comment or add her own insight as she always did. She easily moved on to another question like he had never spoken. He felt like jumping up and saying, Aren’t we at least going to discuss this? But, by now she was deep into the discussion of Eve and her womanly attributes.
Catching Boone mid-thought, the bell once again rang dismissing him from the presence of Ms. Shelly. “Class,” she announced grabbing the students’ attention and stopping their collection of supplies and attempts to flee the room, “re-read last night’s reading. Chances are we will have a quiz tomorrow.” Groans of students followed Boone as he stepped outside the door and into the mass of students walking past him. He didn’t recognize anyone, and no one appeared to recognize him. They all moved about on their own mission without a clue as to what was going on around them, or for that matter underneath them. Boone laughed at the idea, but then felt sorry for all of them because of what he knew and they didn’t. He wanted to let them in on his secret, on the awesomeness of the garden and the wisdom they would gain there, but he knew that merely a handful would give him a chance to speak. He would lead them there if he could. The crowd thickened as Boone maneuvered his way through the masses of future artists, scientists, athletes, teachers, and business owners. He longed so much for the days when he walked to class with his best friend Noel, or joked at lunch with the guys. They were among the masses somewhere, doing their own thing. Boone sighed knowing that he would get to see them at church, but for now, he felt forgotten.