Mr. Tracey blots away the beads of sweat on his brow with a blue and white polka-dot hanky. He folds it into a neat square and slides it back into the inside breast pocket of his faded denim blazer – the one with the suede patches on the sleeves. He’s looking particularly disheveled this morning as he sips from a white ceramic mug that reads ‘HOT FOR TEACHER’ in bold black Helvetica font. It’s probably filled with Jim Beam, I decide. His thinning hair is heavy with oil and is combed carelessly over to one side. Some of the longer strands seem to defy gravity and flop about randomly over his forehead. He looks up at me from his desk as if he senses that I’ve been observing him from the back of the room – and I was. He performs an animated shrugging gesture and looks back down at his book. I knew why I was here in the sweaty stink box but what was his crime, I wonder.
Mr. Tracey was my history teacher and was well known throughout the school for performing impromptu social commentaries in the middle of class with the timing of a seasoned stand-up. His doughy face is flushed to a bright red and set off by piercing gray-blue eyes. He is a cross between Steve Martin and George Carlin with a dash of Robin Williams from Mork and Mindy. He is well liked by most of the students here but I imagined he wasn’t as highly regarded by his own peers or principal Owens. He’s was rebel rouser who marched to the beat of his own drum and I guess I admired him for that.
I scan the room and survey the cast of characters that I will be spending the next month or so of my summer with. It is not very encouraging. Bruce Katz, Shane Connolly, Janice Walters, Sue Shanihan, Joe Heller and some other assorted loners, losers, burnouts, bad-asses, misfits and slacker types. I glance over to my immediate left to see Sam Davies staring into space as he slowly blows the biggest bubble I have ever seen. It pops, spreading a thin film of bright blue Bubblicious all over his nose, lips and cheeks. Impressed with himself, he offers me a piece from the pack. Mr. Tracey quietly observes, shaking his head with a smirk.
Thank God for Sam Davies though. He was pretty chill and though we never really hung out much before, we have bonded over the past few days. We bonded in the way people might bond when sharing some traumatic event together. We were both in here for cutting too many classes this year and if we were to graduate with the rest of our class, we had to do the time. Sam was recently thrown off the track team for smoking pot on school grounds. Principal Owens threatened him with expulsion but coach Larsen stepped in a cut him a deal. Sam and I knew of each other, but he was always kind of distant with me. Maybe it was because we both dated Marcy Hersch at different times. I dated her in the sixth grade and she would usually let me get to second base. Sam and Marcy grew up together and had a thing but now they are just close friends. Sam is tall and lanky with shaggy brown hair and a chiseled jaw line. He’s always dressed like he’s ready for a run. Today he reminds me of that Olympics guy from the Wheaties box. He wears a Budweiser tee, navy gym shorts and yellow and blue Nikes. A baby blue bandana is fashioned around his head like a headband. Bruce Jenner, I suddenly recall.
Mr. Tracey is now standing in front of the green chalkboard. With dramatic flair he writes the words KNOWLEDGE in pale yellow chalk. Without ceremony he begins, “There’s a special place somewhere between Hell and Earth and it’s called Summer School. That’s where they send the unlucky few like me and you who need to atone for their sins against the man. I’m not sure why they call it school though, because you’re not likely to learn anything here. Real knowledge is kept hidden and you need to seek it out for yourself. One thing you will learn is this; time goes by really fucking slowly when it’s a sunny eighty-eight degrees outside and your friends are at the beach and you’re stuck inside this god-forsaken hot box with a bunch of losers who you usually wouldn’t be caught dead with.”
The room bursts into an awkward laughter.
“And you’ll wake up one day long after you’ve graduated and realize that all the crap and horseshit that you’ve been fed year after year was just that –a big stinking pile of horseshit. Now what? Who’s gonna pay for that? Oh, you will, that’s who. You’ll pay with the money you earn being good little debt slaves working for the man. The man wants his money and you just run, run, run around on your little hamster wheels buying up things that you don’t really need, accumulating stuff and taking out loans and rubbing notions and lotions and potions onto your face and conditioners for you hair and new cars and new gadgets and — ”
A loud bell rings out from the halls and there is a sudden rustle of excitement in the class.
“Okay, okay. Back here at twelve-thirty sharp everyone. And please don’t come back here smelling of the cannabis – not unless you’ve got enough to share with the entire class. Got it? Now go, get out of here!” he yells to anyone who will hear him.
We get into Sam’s yellow Mazda RX7 and head up to the Seven Eleven just a half mile or so up Talmadge Road. We purchase some Yoo-hoos and supplies and head right back to the school to share some smokes and chitchat until we are summoned back to class with the rest of the losers. This is becoming our regular routine and it’s a welcome little oasis in an otherwise long day together.
Sam bypasses our usually parking spot in the front and parks in a desolated area just past four big green dumpsters near the field at the back of the school. He turns the car ignition off and checks the view from the car’s side mirrors. Paranoid, I do the same and watch as he lights up a fat joint.
“Hell yeahs!” he blurts out spilling a trail of thick white smoke from his lips.
After a few good hits I start to rummage through our bag of snacks and mentally inventory its contents: Two Yoo-hoos, One Drake’s Apple Pie, a package of Tastykakes Butterscotch Krimpets, two bags of Lays Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips, Watermelon Bubblicious, a pack of Parliament Lights and a pack of matches. After a few sips of a refreshing Yoo-hoo chocolate beverage, I place two cigarettes between my lips, lighting them simultaneously. I pass one to Sam.
“Yo, check it out,” Sam whispers and pulls out a magazine from under the driver’s seat. “It’s a fuck mag. I swiped it from my brothers stash,” he adds.
‘PUSS-O-RAMA’ is spelled out in bold pink and orange lettering against a black background. A photo of a topless woman in a Little Bo Peep-type costume graces the cover. I flip through the pages with some hesitation. Though I had seen plenty of Playboy and Penthouse magazines, this was completely different. There were close-ups of penises penetrating vaginas, clits, cum shots, blowjobs, and anal sex. Nothing was left to the imagination. “Wow, this is intense.” I say aloud.
I fumbled with the magazine for some time, shocked and excited by its contents. It took me a good minute or two to realize that Sam was even more excited than I was. From the corner of my eye I could see him stroking his already erect and rather large dick, his gym shorts pulled down around his knees.
“Put your seat back,” he says and hits the switch on his seat and clumsily falls back into a reclining position. As I stumble to find the switch on the side of my seat, I feel Sam undo the snap of my OP corduroy shorts. Leaning awkwardly over the gearshift, he yanks my shorts down and takes my half erect penis in his mouth. I just lay there stunned by the urgency and intensity of what is happening. I think about telling him to stop but I don’t. A wave of intense pleasure and fear overwhelms me. His mouth feels warm and strong and I gradually allow myself to sink deeper into its mind-numbing bliss.
HOT FOR TEACHER
I see the letters written in pale yellow chalk on the green board. Mr. Tracy sips from his mug.
“Knowledge,” his voice echoes in the distance. “Five, four, three, two — ”
A rush like a million white-hot stars shoots up from my stomach and out through the top of my head. I yell out something unintelligible and I open my eyes as if suddenly thrust from another dimension. Sam slowly tilts his head up revealing a sweaty, devilish grin, maneuvering himself back into an upright position in the driver’s side seat. He wipes his mouth with the bottom of his tee shirt.
“That was cool,” he offers. I just stare ahead, trying to grasp what just occurred.
He grabs the bag of snacks and unwraps the package of Tastykakes and hands me one. “Mmmm, butterscotch,” he says with a big boyish smile, taking a big bite in the process. “And you might want to pull your pants up,” he adds.
“Well, this is awkward,” I deadpan pulling up my shorts. After a pause we simultaneously burst out into uncontrollable laughter, laughing so hard we start to panic, which only makes it seem funnier. We laugh for about five straight minutes before finally regaining our composure.
As we drive back to the front of the school to park, I notice Sam nervously fiddling with the rabbit’s foot keychain dangling from the ignition. I lower my gaze to his thighs and survey the fine blonde hairs on the tanned skin of his legs. His shorts have ridden up and I could see the coarser, darker hairs on his inner thighs.
“We’re cool, right?’ he asks with a certain seriousness before reaching for a smoke.
“Yep. Totally cool,” I say.
“I’m not a homo you know,” he offers.
“Okay, good to know,” I reply. I could have argued but I thought it best to remain neutral on this for time being.
We devour a bag of chips in silence and head back to Mr. Tracy’s class. Shane Connolly greets me at the doorway with a hard punch to the arm. Its stings a bit but I resist the urge to rub it. Shane Connolly was always looking for a fight and I wasn’t in any state to oblige him. We go back to our seats in the back of the room and settle in. I notice the words ‘GET HIGH’ engraved sloppily into the top of my desk. I trace the letters with my fingertips and scan the room. Sam is staring into space with Zen-like detachment, chewing like a cow on a fat wad of blue gum. For the first time, I observe how handsome he actually is. I look up and catch Mr. Tracy’s gaze. He stares intensely in my direction. He points to the chalkboard.
The rest of our days in Mr. Tracy’s summer school class go on pretty much as written. Time passes in a blur of pot smoke, snack runs, secret blowjobs in random places, Yoo-hoos and Tastykakes. After summer school finally lets out, Sam and I speak only once. He called me one night to ask if I would go with him to some jock party up in North Edison. I wanted to see him again, I truly did. I don’t know why but I made up some lame excuse and I we never spoke again. He died that night in a car crash. I read about it on the morning of my seventeenth birthday. They say he was doing a shit-ton of drugs and lost control of the car on Mirror Lake Road. His body was thrown forty feet from the car and was found partially decapitated. My dad showed me the article in the News Tribune and asked me if I knew him. I said I did but not very well. I remember feeling a strange new emotion on that day. It never really left me. It wasn’t grief or anger, but it was somehow related. And birthdays were certainly never the same.
I still have dreams about Sam Davies to this day. Both of us in his little yellow Mazda, driving to the beach. He is happy and smiling and singing along to a song on the radio. Though the song is familiar I can never quite remember it when I wake, just some vague notion of a melody mixed with emotions and desire. The both of us trapped in some faded, sun-drenched loop in time. And we never do make it to the beach.
Just driving — always driving.
Mark Andrew Kalfa is a creative director, photographer and writer from New York City. His images have been in many publications including Esquire, GQ and New York Magazine. He is writing his first novel entitled Mr. Hospitality and a collection of short stories called Asteroids. He lives in Manhattan with his dogs. His Instagram account is here.