“Oh my god,” Enigma Machine says, “I so hate math.”

The kids are supposed to be doing yoga, because I don’t want to be stressing them out or anything, and I think they’re going to be (re)debriefed one by one during class, but they’re kind of just lying there talking about school and not even pretending on the poses. Of course, they want to know what’s with a bunch of bs I remember hating the living fuck out of from school myself, so I can’t really fault them on that, per se.

FiendPuncher gives him a skeptical look, but doesn’t say anything.

“Aren’t you really good at math?” Caffeine asks, instead.

Enigma blinks at him suspiciously. “I mean, yeah. I’m good at it. I can be good at it and hate it.”

Both of them shrug in response to that.

“I have to write ten pages on some book by Friday,” Jailbait gripes.

“What book?” FiendPuncher asks.

“Who knows?” she mutters. “Like anyone even read it, anyway.”

“I know,” Gatling agrees. “School assigns, like…so many books.”

“So many books,” Enigma agrees emphatically.

“They don’t take me that long,” Caffeine says, and mimes ducking while the others mime throwing crumpled up paper at him.

Or baseballs. I don’t know what they’re imagining. I’m just sitting here not bothering to try to get them to pay attention anymore, wondering if I should tell them to pay attention in school instead or something. I mean, shit, the books you get in English are like 100 pages long, just read them.

“You can just,” Psybeam says, uncertainly, “use SparkNotes. Or CliffNotes.”

“CliffsNotes,” FiendPuncher says.

“Cliff’s Notes?” Psybeam says.

FiendPuncher shrugs. “It’s named after someone, I think. Cliff, I guess.”

“Those are real?” Caffeine says.

I stare at him.

“I thought that was just a saying,” Caffeine says.

“I do,” Jailbait says, bringing the conversation back on topic. I guess. “Of course I use them, but it’s hard to make just that go on for ten pages. And my teacher checks margins and stuff.”

“Write, like, seven and a half.” Gatling shrugs. “It’s not like anyone calls you on it.”

“Yeah,” Jailbait agrees, “but still.”

FiendPuncher rolls her eyes.

“I think it depends on the book,” Caffeine says.

“What,” Psybeam says, “whether you read it?”

“I read some of the interesting looking ones,” Enigma says. “I read a one about mockingbirds or something last year. It turned out to be pretty boring, though.”

“No, dumbass, about how to pad your essays,” Caffeine says.

I really feel like I shouldn’t be suborning this discussion.

“I like to pad them with deconstructions of the text,” FiendPuncher says, sweetly, to distracted nods all around.

“I think,” Jailbait says, “it’s Shakespeare.”

“Oh, Shakespeare is a good one,” Caffeine says. “You can get really long quotes.”

“Yeah, and lots of people have said stuff about Shakespeare,” Enigma adds. “You can look up anywhere online and find stuff, and, you know, rephrase. Paraphrase, that’s it. It’s not even cheating.”

“Plus, it’s, like, Shakespeare,” Gatling says, “so, you know, you can just make stuff up, and everyone knows how confusing it is so they forgive you.”

“You can claim it’s artistic license or something,” Enigma agrees.

Caffeine nods. “And people argue a lot, so I bet you can find a critic who agrees with you.”

“I said that,” Enigma says.

“Sorry,” Caffeine huffs. “I was just agreeing with you.”

“I’m just going to watch the movie,” Jailbait says, with a sigh.

“Which version?” I ask, because I can’t keep quiet about that one.

“Version?” Jailbait says.

“It’s Shakespeare,” I tell her, even though maybe it even isn’t, “you can probably get a recording of it being performed as a play, which would work out pretty well.”

She shrugs. “Maybe.”

“There are always modern versions of them,” Gatling says, smirking. “Those are better because they’re in normal English and all.”

“Not all of them,” FiendPuncher mutters, but that one’s not actually a good suggestion and now I’ve made the mistake of thinking about that fucking film.

“Go with the BBC adaptations whenever you can,” I tell her, which is the only general advice I can really give at this point.

She sighs. “English is the worst class.”

“Math is the worst class,” Enigma says. “I thought we established that.”

“Science is the worst class,” Gatling says, “they make you read through a million safety procedures and then you don’t even get to do the experiment, which is watching water or something.”

“Spanish is the worst class,” Caffeine says, “like, when am I ever going to need to know Spanish, right? And then we learn the same thing, over and over. Just, more Spanish words.”

“I don’t take Spanish,” Enigma says, “I take German.”

Of course he does.

“I take French,” Jailbait says.

“Wow,” Gatling says, “look at you guys with your fancy schools that teach Foreign.”

“Fine, then,” Caffeine says, “lucky you.”

“I take Spanish,” Psybeam says. “I don’t think it’s that hard.”

“Oh, you don’t? Well, that’s surprising,” Caffeine says. “What’s your least favorite, then?”

“History,” Psybeam says.

The rest of the kids all chime in that history is, in fact, hella boring. So boring. The world’s boringest. FiendPuncher shares a look with me. Now, when I say shares, I mean she seems to know what we’re meant to be agreeing on, even if I don’t, but I give her a little smile, anyway. Then they go on to list out the stupidest facts they know about our presidents (and vice presidents). There seems to be a competition about pet names.

I don’t really recognize most of the facts, except the ones that are really common myths, but I’ve heard what most kids come through spouting about history, so I figure a lot of them have got to be wrong. I don’t bother correcting any of them, because they seem pretty much harmless. At least they’re not getting the broad strokes of history painted the entirely wrong color. Well.

“And they make us use bathroom passes like we’re children,” FiendPuncher says.

Oh, right. She’s still in middle school. Poor kid.

To my surprise, Gatling agrees, “oh, I know, only one boy and one girl at a time!”

Jailbait frowns. “We have to go during breaks, anyway. Then we get in trouble for being late to class. My French teacher totally gives me detention every time.”

“Why do you keep going during French class?” Enigma asks.

“Because screw him,” Jailbait says.

“I have enough time during breaks,” Caffeine says, but doesn’t even manage to draw a smile out of anyone this time.

Eventually, Sensei Domino turns up to rescue me.

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