TITUS HIGH • • • a “Nineteen Sixty Three” excerpt



The grassy knoll in front of Titus High School, with its colorful flower garden and sunny exposure, had been a perfect place to chill-out between classes before the winter’s cold arrived. Lying back on the cool grass, the sun radiating warmth into my body, hands clasped behind my head, the clouds drifting past against a deep blue sky — I could easily lose myself and miss a class if I didn’t watch my time. For three years I had found comfort and reflection there. It had been a place for inspiration, weekend planning, solving social conflicts or whatever.

Unfortunately, this year the charm and serenity were missing. The grass still felt cool when I laid on it. The clouds still played on their blue playground, and the sun continued to massage my body with its rays of warmth. But somehow, being on that hill had lost its charm.

The problem, of course, was my attitude — my pouting over the circumstances I found myself in. I had spent three years at this school, and although I’d enjoyed most of it, last year should have been my graduation. It should have been a time of moving on to a new life at university or trade school or even into the working world.  And, I would have been doing that at this very moment if not for the fickle finger of fate. Well, fate and my naïve stupidity — probably mostly the latter. My wallowing in self-pity was broken by a voice from the other side of the garden.

“Hey, Adam. What’s up? I thought you had a class?”

A voice I could recognize in a whisper across a room—Bobby Griffis. We were BF’s since the beginning of time; next door buddies since our days in diapers. His family eventually moved, but as chance would have it, their move was in the same school district, so our bond continued into our high school years.

“Yeah!” I answered. “Math. But, that’s it. Math with old Pendergast, then I’m done for the day. This year is going to be the weirdest experience ever—a Math class and an English class. Two frigging classes. I’ve got so much extra time, I could get a job and still have time to spare.”

Mum and dad had laid down the law: No part-time jobs and limited play time. I’ll tell you about it later.

“Gawd! Like I’m going to spend all my time studying?  Same with you?”

“Yeah! You got that right. It’s going to be a bummer, both here and at home. I know I’m already fed up.”

Bobby’s parents had constantly been after him about his involvement in school sports, claiming it affected his academic performance. I suppose they could have been right, he wasn’t the worlds greatest academic and loved his sports. It was pretty much the same for me.

“Bummer!” I said.  “Anyway, you done for the day?”

“Yeah! Just finished Physics.”
Bobby, like myself and for the same reasons, was held back an extra year at Titus, with only two classes: Physics and English.
“Think I’ll check out who’s on the field; maybe throw the ball for a while. You got anything planned after class? Want to go to Pete’s?

“Nothing, planned,” I replied. “And sure, Pete’s sounds great.”

Pete’s was a billiards hall we frequented: a cavernous hideaway, buried in the basement of an old commercial building on Whyte Avenue. It was a bit of a sleazy dump, with a musty odour that matched, but it offered the cheapest tables in town and was never crowded, other than when the Demon Hunters motorcycle gang held their monthly meeting. They never bothered us, but they could certainly make one nervous. Tough looking group they were. For three years I held out hope they’d find themselves a private clubhouse.

No one from school except Bobby and I frequented the place. It was like a secret get-away — a place for a quiet game of snooker, where we could contemplate life-defining decisions like, ‘What do you want to do this weekend?’ or, ‘How’s your love-life with Patty developing?’

“Well, I’ve got a class to get to, so I better move it,” I said.

“Yeah! See ya later.” And with that, Bobby turned to leave.

As I attempted to jump to my feet from my seated position on the lawn, I slipped on the grass and landed spread-eagle in the garden of scarlet and gold flowers that spelled out our school’s name.


It was an impressive display, complete with our school emblem all emblazoned in gold, well maintained and on view for everyone walking or driving past the school to admire. In my flailing to extricate myself from the flowery mess, I completely obliterated the flowers forming the letter “U.”

Hearing my cries of misfortune, Bobby turned back, bursting into laughter at seeing my predicament. I crawled from the garden, onto the lawn, stood and dusted myself off. We admired the new name that was now spelt out.


“Kind of like it better. How about you?” I said.

“Well, at least you’ll smell good for Pendergast.” Bobby quipped.
He turned to leave. “See you after your class, buddy.”

At least my tumble had uplifted our spirit.


A Novel