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From the Writer’s Desk

By Chris Crutcher

With the release of Angry Management in paperback, I thought I’d take a minute to dispel the rumors (circulated by my editors when my next manuscript once again didn’t show up anywhere near on time) of my mysterious death with a little teaser from Period Eight.

Period Eight is lunch period at Heller High School. Forty-year science/social studies teacher Bruce Logsdon opened up his classroom at lunch back in the early seventies, shortly after he returned to teach in the high school from which he graduated and discovered that the teachers who didn’t like him as a student didn’t have much regard for him as a teacher. He vowed to give his students a different high school experience and has been working at it since. Period Eight is a time when all bets are off; anything can be discussed.

In this excerpt, Paul Baum—Paulie Bomb—one of Logs’s favorites, is up at the local reservoir getting ready for a long-distance swimming workout, having just informed his girlfriend that he cheated on her.

Paulie crests the knoll on the old highway leading to the landing dock on the city side of the reservoir, cuts the engine, and coasts to a stop, then sits, staring at the perfect upside-down early morning image of Smalley’s Peak in the glass-still water. First outdoor workout of the year; the water will be cold, probably mid-fifties. If he doesn’t lose the feeling in his fingers and toes, he’ll coax Logs out here this afternoon. Bruce Logsdon teaches science and social studies at Heller High, runs Period Eight at lunchtime, and swims open water with Paulie Bomb—Paul Baum. Logs requires Paulie to scout for hypothermia early each spring before immersing his own body. Paulie pops the trunk lock and hauls out his triathlete’s wetsuit. At least his nuts will be warm. Like that matters. Oh, Hannah.

He dives, involuntarily sucking air as the cold trickles in. The colder the better. He deserves this. Even so, he pees in self-defense, his only means to counter the icy watery fingers creeping around his rib cage and into his crotch. He swims easily out about a hundred yards as his body heat warms the remaining water inside the suit, turns parallel to the shore, and strokes, finding a cadence he can hold for the next two hours. Most days he plays games to allay the monotony: fifty strokes hard, fifty strokes easy; a hundred strokes hard, fifty easy; a hundred fifty hard, fifty easy; and on and on. An hour up and an hour back. He has taught himself to breathe on either side in order to keep the shore in sight and therefore swim a relatively straight line. On this morning he holds an even pace; no intervals, no monotony. Just his sweet, sweet Hannah wedged in his frontal lobe. His gone Hannah.

Later, feeling like he needs to talk, he seeks out his teacher/mentor:

“How’d she find out?” Logs asks after hearing Paulie’s story.

“I told her.”

“Did the girl—and I appreciate your not identifying her, speaking of TMI—did she threaten to tell?”

“God no,” Paulie says. “She begged me not to.”

“Did somebody catch you?”

No.

“Then why . . . How can I put this? It’s not exactly standard operating procedure for a young buck such as yourself to cheat, get away with it, then rat yourself out. I mean, don’t get me wrong . . . Jesus, I’m glad this is my last year.”

“You think I should have kept quiet?”

“Advice of this particular kind is far above my pay grade,” Logs says. “I’m just saying that in my experience working with adolescents . . . hell in my experience being an adolescent . . . well, like I started to say, a jury of your peers might deem you short on survival skills.”

That’s who I want passing judgment on me,” Paulie says back, “my peers.”

“I’m just saying . . . ”

“I know. Tell me something, Mr. Logs, if I had come to you before I told her, what woulda been your advice?”

Bruce Logsdon leans back in his chair, his hands knitted behind his head. “I would have done any- and every-thing in my power not to give it.”

“How come?”

Logs shrugs. “To avoid being a hypocrite, I guess.”

Paulie frowns, waiting.

“You know, buddy, there’s this unspoken teacher’s code thing where I’m supposed to tell you the ‘moral’ thing to do.” He looks at his watch. “But it’s too close to Period Eight and too close to my retirement for that. Look, I don’t know the circumstances under which you committed this heinous act, and I’ll thank you to keep it that way, but I’m sixty-four years old. I went on my first date at age nine; took Charlotte Valare to the circus. I knew more about male-female interaction then.”

“You’re gonna have to do better than that if you want to be my guru,” Paulie says.

“If I were your guru, I’d have to share responsibility in some of the crazy shit you do, young fella. I have enough crazy shit of my own, thank you.”

Paulie’s gaze drifts to a high corner of the ceiling.

“Kidding aside,” Logs says. “There’s not a good reason to lie to anyone about the important things, particularly to people we love or care about. And we should honor our commitments. In a perfect world, right? I’m assuming you and Hannah were supposed to be exclusive.”

Paulie nods.

“So if you had come to me beforehand I probably should have told you to tell her, but I probably would have asked if you thought it might happen again, or if you believed you could keep those impulses under control from now on.” He grimaces. “It’s real likely I would have told you to give yourself another chance. Most guys would.”

Paulie looks down. “Yeah, well, ‘most guys’ are exactly who I don’t want to be.”

(A note from the editors: We have absolutely no idea when we will publish Period Eight. Please join us in harassing the author to deliver the manuscript.)

Angry ManagementChris Crutcher is the author of many critically acclaimed books for teens, including Angry Management, which we will release in paperback this month! He has won three lifetime achievement awards for the body of his work: the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults, the ALAN Award for a Significant Contribution to Adolescent Literature, and the NCTE National Intellectual Freedom Award.

18 Comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ella Rose Hope, HarperChildrens. HarperChildrens said: Exclusive sneak peek of Chris Crutcher's next book, PERIOD EIGHT! http://ow.ly/3PCk4 (via @thepageturn) […]

  2. Brilliant! Where’s the rest of it?

  3. Kim McCollum-Clark says:

    Chris. You know you wanna finish this beauty! The world awaits!! Your readers are hungry–hungry and sad. PLEASE?

  4. Robyn says:

    If I still taught high school, this would be in my class library. I had many of your books because I was so amazed that there was someone out there writing books about sports and student athletes and that their (our) lives could be so compelling and not at all the jock mentality. I still remember Staying Fat for Sarah Burnes. Can not believe someone wants to ban that book.
    In any case, this book sounds so familiar, both from an athlete stand point and from a teacher stand point. This conversation Paulie and Logs reminds me of the times I had to help teenagers answer really tough questions. I often felt under, and un-, equipped. I am looking forward to reading this and hope you will finish it soon. Your books give me hope that I might one day be able to write my YA on rowing/crew and make it compelling.
    Take care!

  5. Teri Lesesne says:

    So, where’s the rest? Inquiring minds want to know (and to read)!

  6. More please! I just reviewed (raved about?) Deadline on my blog and it has left me wanting a new Crutcher book to read!!

  7. Karen Edmundson says:

    Okay, old man. Remember what you told me?

    Just write.

  8. Laura says:

    I’m chiming in here: Come on, Chris! We want something to share with our teacher and librarian friends!

  9. mwt says:

    *crickets*

  10. Virginia says:

    Crutcher! Where are you??

  11. I’m typing away. This is quite a ways along. It could very be published humously, rather than posthumously. Back to work. CC

  12. Virginia says:

    “I am typing away.” I’ve heard that before!!!!

  13. mwt says:

    I know you have.

    : )

  14. Which way is he typing?

  15. […] out more great photos on his website, or you can follow him on Twitter! Will he be working on his new novel manuscript on the long flight home? We can only hope… Blog this! Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post […]

  16. […] it looks like we are all going to have to wait . . . just a little bit longer . . . for Period 8. This has only happened once before, when she ate half of a letter from Lynne Rae Perkins about […]

  17. […] offices last week. We talked about Man Day (do we need a countdown widget or something?), Period 8 (CC’s new novel), sports and politics (yup), and ate a whole bunch of donuts. Blog this! […]

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