Field Tripping

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Karrie Ann Thompson and 34 other eleventh graders go off in search of a rare newt in the local park on a biology field trip. Craziness follows!

Submitted: August 26, 2016

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Submitted: August 26, 2016

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Field Tripping

Annie Miller

There's nothing new in the world. My dad told me that once, though he was talking about something my mom had done to dinner, I still understood what he meant. And he is right. I figure caveman teenagers still had dirty rooms, talked back behind their parents' backs, and worried endlessly about their looks. Of course, boys and girls probably had beards, so personal grooming wasn't as important as it is now. Is that new perfume? Why yes, eau de rotted beaver pelt. Anyway, this all brings me to the reason I'm here on a stinking school bus, going on a field trip with thirty-four other kids from Mr. Ernie Bob McGill's eleventh grade biology class. We're all being taken, against most of our wills, to visit the most important place in the world, a field just outside the city limits of Hillsville, our hometown and home of the Hillsville Fighting Moles.

When I had my license, we won't go into why I no longer have the privilege of driving, I used to drive by the field every day. But now, apparently, Ernie Bob has decided the future of mankind lies in the sacred piece of earth... just past the kids' playground, just before you get to the pond.

"Yo Karrie!" A voice from the back of the bus yells out. I can't ride in the back without catching malaria.

"Yo!" I yell back. Yep, that's me, Karrie Ann Thompson, ordinary seventeen year old girl and future race car driver. Well, it's a dream, one of many.

"You got money?!"

"I got ten dollars on a prepaid!" I yell. I think I'm talking to Marie. We go back years. I've never really liked her, though. Too needy. She lives on my block, and you know, when you live on the same street, you have to be friends just to keep your parents from continuously asking what's wrong.

"Forget it, then!"

I didn't tell her I had five dollars in cash because she'd want to borrow some. She used to ride to school with me, the three months I was driving, and I think she hit me up for change every single day. Then again, she's probably the best friend I have. I don't make friends easily. In grade school, my best friend was usually the class pet. I don't mean teacher's pet, I mean the actual thing we kept in a cage and pretended to raise until it died. And it was usually a fish. My best memories are from the year the class pet actually breathed air. A gerbil named Sam. We were so close I got to take him at the end of the school year. He died on the bus ride home. It's tough losing your best friend, especially since, in all likelihood, you were responsible for murdering him. I sometimes have dreams of Marie running in a giant wheel. It's obvious I have never fully recovered.

Anyway, let me brush away the tears, not really, and focus on the day ahead. I hate biology. Well, mostly just Ernie Bob, oh, and Watson and Crick. I see them all in some sort of a double helix conspiracy to ruin my life, or at least a perfectly normal day. That pea-breeding priest guy sucks, too. Turns out, or so the story goes, that the field in question, which thirty-five school kids will soon be stomping on, could hold the secret to life itself. Well, a rare newt, actually, so, newt-life as we know it. Our mission, and we had no choice but to accept it, is to crawl around like wild dogs, and search out this rare little salamander thingie. Then, we yell for Ernie Bob who apparently has a special newt jar, we bag the slimy thing, and then get our picture in the paper and win scholarships to Harvard. Not really. Actually, I'm thinking teenagers crawling around like dogs on their home turf will pretty much end the species. A lot of newt-shaped stains on our knees. Just a guess. Well, Ernie Bob wants to be a well-known scientist. I guess causing a species to go extinct will get his name in the science books.

I can see the field, well, the playground part, full of small kids and parents. So, the plan is, we all pile off the bus, like a scientific research team on an important mission, while a bunch of ice cream munching squeal-boxes run around annoying us. Well, actually, I like kids, so I'd just rather play with them than Ernie Bob, but I'm guessing he'd yell at me. He's my uncle when we're not in school. Mom told me he never got above a C grade all through college, so he's the perfect teacher, I guess. He's on our level intellectually. Actually, I've gotten B's before, so I'm smarter, probably. Well, B's in Music, mainly because I was the only one who still had six strings left on their student guitars for the final recital.

Off the bus! Ah, the great outdoors... and a convenience store and McDonalds right across the street. Time to do some newtin'. I can see my house from here.

"All right, students, let's line up here and do a head count," Ernie Bob says, as he marches up and down the line. Maybe he thinks a few of us jumped out the windows on the ten minute trip. Not that I didn't consider it myself. "Count off!"

Everyone says 'one' at the same time. Good, at least one of us made it here.

"Do newts bite?" Stephie Five says. We have a BUNCH of Stephies at our school.

"Are they poisonous?" Tom Petterson says. He's cute, starting quarterback. Dumb as a post.

I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter since we'll never see a newt. I've been here a lot and never seen a newt. Well, I was never looking for a newt, but still, I imagine I would have seen one by now as much as I've rolled around on this grass. And no, I'm talking about when I was little! Mostly.

"Newts don't bite and they're not poisonous," Ernie Bob says. "These particular ones are very rare, though, and protected, so if we do find one we have to be very careful with it! There's a ten thousand dollar fine for purposefully killing one."

Terry Frazer shuffles his feet and seems to be trying to cover something up with some loose dirt. It may lead to blackmail later, not sure. Depends on whether I run out of money or not.

"What does a newt taste like?" Stevie Akers says to me. I shrug. How was I supposed to know. He nudged me and winked. Weirdo. He winked again. "Oh, come on, you're supposed to say they taste like chicken!"

"Right," I say. "I'm gonna go stand over there." Which was a big mistake because I walk right into Marie.

"Yay!" she says, grabbing my arm. "We're pairing up, so we're partners! You can use your card at the Quickie Mart over there, right?"

"Now, I know most of you are not accustomed to roughing it out in the fields, doing what we scientists call 'field work', so pace yourselves," Ernie Bob says with a completely straight face. "Remember there is plenty of water on the bus, and the driver is trained in first aid."

"You want a bite of my ice cream, mister?" a little girl says, waving half a cone that has obviously been dropped in the sandbox a few times.

"Go away!" Ernie yells. And to everyone's surprise, she does. Well, dragged away by her mother after she kicks Ernie on the shin. But, his rudeness does clear the area of rug rats.

Our paramedic is heading across the street to have a burger and fries at McDonalds, so if any of us does need first aid, I hope they'll hold on till we all write our orders down before they seek medical attention. But, I guess it's cool to put up with Uncle Ernie for a while; it's his big day to shine. He's trained his whole life for this moment, slaving away to get all those C's. So, I'll toil relentlessly for minutes at a time, in search of the elusive Tree Bark Green Newt. Unless Marie starts talking her usual shit. I've slapped her before, I can do it again.

"Hey, if I get tired can I just go home?" I say, pointing at my house.

"No way, partner!" Marie says. "We in this thang t'gether!"

Yeah, like that. It's cute for like ten seconds, then it's more like fingernails on a chalkboard.

"No one leaves until the school day is over," Ernie says. "We're responsible for you until then."

I look around and can already feel that we're down a couple of people. Ah, Gene and Stephie Three. Probably already behind some big tree or rock or something. Gene just smiles at her and her pants fall around her ankles.

"So, how do we start?" someone says. He looks a lot older than us and I've never seen him before.

"Are you one of my students?" Ernie says, checking his list.

"No, I live across the street there in the two story ranch with the redwood stained deck," he says.

"Nice house," Marie says. "Weren't there some police cars there a couple of nights ago?"

Everyone stepped back. Ernie pointed him away, and he dropped his head and strolled away.

"Anyway, I have a box full of glass jars here with lids," Ernie says. "Each team gets a jar."

Pretty cheap, this biology stuff.

"What if we find a portal to the underground universe?" John T. says. He's a gamer nerd. And forget what you see on TV, they're not cute or funny, and they smell because, apparently, deodorant doesn't exist in the medieval village shop and can't be conjured up by their clan's healer.

"I'm pretty sure we won't find one," Ernie says. He takes everything seriously.

"They're as rare as Tree Bark Green Newts," I say. For some reason, everyone nods in agreement. Oh, right, John T. can hack the school computers. Last semester, the entire freshman class had the middle name 'Hulio' on their report cards. Just showing what he could do, I guess.

"Right!" Marie said. "Let's get newtin'!"

Five minutes of back-breaking toil and not a single damned newt. Most of us are ready to give up... well, we say that as we all sit around a park picnic table, stuffing snack cakes and soda down our throats. So, I guess we've already given up. But, damn me, if something very much newt-ish doesn't scamper across the table and take a dive into the grass right beside me!

"Newt!" I yell. But it isn't necessary. Half a dozen lazy teenagers are on their knees faster than cheerleaders after a football game. We want to catch one of the damned things! Mostly because we can then stop looking.

"Don't hurt it! Don't hurt it!" Ernie yells.

"Get a jar!" Stevie yells.

"Get a net!" I yell.

And quicker than I can finish a future career handout (1. Not Sure, 2. Not Sure, 3. Not Sure), we've got the little bastard in a jar. And it is ugly. Ugly like my grand father with his teeth out. Doesn't look harmful; doesn't really look so rare, either. But, regardless, we got it!

"Yes!" Ermie screams and shakes his fist in the air. "Screw you, God!" Which got everyone's attention. "You've tried my entire life to beat me down, make me fail! It was you who ruined my marriage! You stole my car! You ate my strawberries!"

"Uh, Ern... er, Mr. McGill?" I say. "You okay, man?"

He grabs me by the shoulders and starts laughing. "Okay? Okay?!" he says. "I'm great, you silly bitch!"

Okay, I'm getting the feeling he's not okay at all. At least I've never had a teacher, relative or not, call me a silly bitch. But, hey, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. It is more the fact that he is biting his bottom lip so hard that blood is dripping down his chin that gives me the bad feeling. I don't even notice that he's actually lifting me into the air until he drops me. Well, he had to, I guess, because he passed out. Well, passed out is what will go on the police report; actually, Marie smacked him up side the head with the newt jar.

It didn't break, the jar I mean, not sure about the skull on the receiving end, but it did give the newt a chance to escape. He almost made it, too, before Terry Frazer ended the little fellow's plans... and life. Well, maybe a dead Tree Bark Green Newt is better than no Tree Bark Green Newt. That's what we all think.

"Do I have time for a burger and milk shake before the ambulance gets here?" I say.

"Yo, silly bitch girlfriend, you gots some change for yer bestie?" Marie says.

Well, she did save my life... probably. Or at least saved me the trouble of knocking Ernie out myself. So, all's well that ends well... or at least ends.

"Yeah, I got prepaid, so let's get the eats and go home," I say.

Terry picks up the dead newt and carefully places it on Ernie's forehead. Touching, really. And we all have a moment of silence... well, no one could stop laughing, but silence otherwise.

"Aaaiii!" Stephie Three screams from behind a tree. Which we're all used to hearing. "Get it off me! Get it off me!" Which we're not used to hearing.

"It's just a newt!" we hear Gene say.

"Get the jar!" I yell. "And someone keep Terry away from it!"

Well, end of story, we all got our pictures in the paper and we're famous for finding the rare Tree Bark Green Newt. Ernie Bob would have been in the picture, too, but my empty McDonald's bag just caught a breeze at the worst time and blocked out his face, so the caption listed all our names and ended with 'and some unknown older man'. Just as well, since he was transferred the next week to a big inner city school the survivors call 'We All High School'. We didn't get any cash or anything, but several older men on Facebook have offered me money if I'd go to the park with them. Who knew there were so many men interested in finding rare newts? I may have discovered my future career!

The End


© Copyright 2017 Annie Miller. All rights reserved.

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