Trash Can Days

A Middle School Saga


By Teddy Steinkellner

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Jake Schwartz is not looking forward to middle school. Having his older sister Hannah there is no consolation. The only saving grace is that Danny Uribe, his lifelong best friend, will be by his side. Or will he? The two barely have any classes together, and since Danny’s summer growth spurt, there’s been a growing distance between them. Meanwhile, Hannah has her own problems — being Queen Bee is not easy. The other girls are out for blood, and boys are so…exhausting. Danny surprises her with his maturity (and kissing skills), but she knows Jake would be devastated if he knew about their relationship. Dorothy Wu couldn’t care less about school politics. But when she joins the writing club, she meets a young lad with heroic potential. In the course of a year at San Paulo Junior High, these four lives will intersect in unique and hilarious ways. Friendships will grow and change. Reputations will transform. And maybe one of them will become a man.


1 • Jake Schwartz

Monday, August 31

Danny grew half a foot this summer. Six full inches—maybe a little more if you count his hair now that he’s started spiking it. Three months ago he wasn’t allowed on most roller coasters. Now all of a sudden he’s walking right into R movies without being stopped, and he’s even touching the rim on basketball hoops. Maybe my sister put it best—tonight at dinner she said that Danny had gone from “shrimp to pimp.”

I never fully realized what was happening as it was happening, and yet somehow it happened. If you look at the picture of us from sixth grade graduation in June, we are literally the exact same height (I’ve actually got the edge since my Jewfro was extra puffy that day). But if you look at the two of us now, it’s absolutely no contest. It’s more than just apples and oranges. It’s like comparing an apple to a much taller apple that has a wispy mustache.

Now, I don’t want to give the wrong impression here. This whole growth-spurt deal didn’t have, like, this big cosmic impact on our lives. Danny Uribe is still my best friend, and that’s not something a stupid pituitary gland can get in the way of. This height thing hasn’t defined the summer at all. These past three months have been legendary for so many other reasons:

  1. Danny and I got to see four Laker playoff games from my dad’s luxury box.
  2. My family kept the pool heated up all summer so Danny and I and occasionally my sister went night-swimming a bunch. Kind of spooky, actually, but so fun.
  3. Danny and I went to camp for a month, where I got my first kiss courtesy of Becca Wolfson. Plus, Danny got a tongue kiss from Jordan Meyer, one of the hottest girls there.
  4. My parents took us to Europe as a graduation present. Churros in Spain, gelato in Italy, real live boobs in France.

Best summer in all of human history. I actually feel a little guilty at how awesome it all was.

Here’s how awesome it was: I just looked at my pictures from the summer on my laptop while listening to a bunch of cheesy memory-type songs like the Hawaiian version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day. As I got to the end of the slide show, my eyes actually started to tear up a little. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not someone who cries a whole lot, but there was just something about seeing all those memories at the same time.

Like there’s this one from the last-day-of-school party at San Paulo Beach of me, Danny, and some of the other sixth grade guys catching sand crabs. We’re all really into it, and some of us are pretending to eat them or make sand crab mustaches out of them, and you can see all the girls in the back and they look way grossed out. I think one of them barfed.

Then there’s this picture from my family’s vacation of me, Danny, my mom, and Hannah (my dad had to leave halfway through for work), and we’re all in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and me and Danny are both pretending to hold the tower up with our butts and we both have constipated looks on our faces and it’s absolutely hilarious.

So yeah, I guess this is the kind of stuff that gets me worked up emotionally. Not sappy love stories or profound poetry, but crustacial hair and constipated faces. I know that makes me seem kind of insane, but, honestly, more than that, I take it as proof that I just had a ridiculously epic summer. It’s been by far the best three months of my life and I never want it to end. And of course I’m saying that now because junior high starts precisely…tomorrow.

Junior high. Middle school. Seventh grade. Tomorrow. I don’t know how I feel about it yet. I don’t feel that normal pre–first day of school mix of nerves and excitement. I don’t feel curious or nauseous or even pissed. I’m just a little…I don’t know. Sad?

See, I already know what San Paulo Junior High is going to be like. I’ve seen what Hannah’s friends are like. I know the drill. I know that thanks to the maaaagic of hormones, all the people in the hallways are going to look like giants, or at least like NBA players. I know that everyone’s going to be all familiar with the latest hit songs and cool clothes, and I’m not really good at keeping up with all that stuff. Some of the kids will have probably already tried beer or drugs or making out or even sex or all four, and for sure that’s all anyone’s going to want to talk about. Kids are going to text in class and all through passing period, and they’ll be updating their statuses all the time, and they’ll start dancing and freak dancing and dating, and basically school’s not going to be about school anymore. And sure, I guess I’ve still got my group of friends from elementary school, but they’ve kind of changed, too. Since midway through last year, all they’ve wanted to do is either skate or come up with new ways to hit each other in the nuts.

And I value my nuts!

Danny’s nervous too, but not really in the same way. He’s more excited-nervous. He said that it might be scary getting older, but that we’re also getting the chance to try a lot of cool new things. He’s also pretty psyched about going to a much bigger school with a bunch of different kinds of kids. And he made a good point when he reminded me that there is going to be pizza every day.

Maybe Danny’s right. Why shouldn’t I like junior high? After all, I’ve got to remember: I’ve got a cell phone that I can use to text, same as everybody else. I’ve got stories from camp that I can use for bragging purposes. Hey, I’ve even got nuts to bash if it comes to that. And most importantly, I’ve got allies. First there’s Hannah, and she isn’t exactly the most generous big sister on Earth (I’m not even sure that she ranks in the top three billion), but she was a “sevvy” just last year and she remembers what it’s like and she can show me the ropes.

And Danny will be there. Granted, we’re only in two of the same classes because I’m starting Honors and he’s doing the general track. But still. I’ll always have someone to hang out with at lunchtime and after school, and that’s more than so many kids can say. I’ve got to remember that as lame as school could possibly get, what with middle school supposedly being the worst years ever and all, I’ll still have Danny through everything. Even when I’m at home, his house is what, a thirty-second walk away? I mean, my parents employ his parents. What a cool deal for us. I don’t even have to leave the property to hang out.

Above all, that’s what I’ve got to remember. I have to know that even when I most feel like giving up or crying, I’m always just thirty seconds away from my best friend. Just thirty seconds away from my brother.

Well, thirty seconds and six inches.

September 1

Letter to yourself assignment

English, Morales

Dear Danny,

Right now you’re sitting at your desk in fourth period writing this letter to yourself. It’s a big waste of time, but at least it’s better than learning about real things.

You’re supposed to write about how the first day of seventh grade has been so far, how you thought it would go, all that kind of stuff. Basically your feelings.

You don’t really know how it’s gonna be yet but you feel okay, you guess. This place is pretty cool. When you walk down the halls, you can actually hear people speaking Spanish to each other, which is tight and way different from how it was at Arlington. Also the teachers are chill and they seem kind of easy. Plus there’s pizza for lunch every day and it’s mad cheap.

Man, you want some pizza right now. Ten minutes till lunch.

But you have to keep writing for those ten minutes. The teacher said your pencil isn’t allowed to leave the paper for the entire time and that you have to write whatever you are thinking. Here’s what you are thinking: blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Okay, that’s boring. If that’s all you’re gonna write then you should just crumple this paper and throw it in the trash can. You don’t want to read that stuff a year from now.

You wonder what it’s gonna be like a year from now. For sure you’ll still basically be the same person. You’ve always been the same person through your whole life. Moving to Jake’s big fancy house in Seabrook five years ago and meeting him and his family didn’t change you. Having your parents work as the maid and gardener for your best friend’s parents didn’t change you. Going to Arlington Academy from second grade until now and being like, the only brown kid in the whole school didn’t change you. Growing a crap ton of inches over the summer didn’t change you.

Those kinds of things just change the way people look at you, that’s all. And for sure people look at you different here than at Arlington or ever before, really. For one, there’s a lot more people who actually look like you and are like you, so you don’t have all the white-bread kids staring at you funny. Also you’re one of the tallest people at school, instead of being all little like before, so you actually have girls looking at you. Noticing you. So yeah, people treat you different. In a good way.

Doesn’t mean you’re gonna change, though. You don’t want to be one of those kids who was really cool in elementary school and then started to suck in middle school and everyone stopped hanging out with them. Well, you weren’t even cool in elementary school so things can only go up from here. You should tell that to Jake. That will make him feel better maybe.

Oh sick. That’s the bell. Pizza time. Okay, have fun, Future Danny. Stay true to yourself and to your friends and stuff. Oh, and most important of all, get some.

Your friend,


P.S. Get some.

2 • Dorothy Wu

Friday, September 4

I awake to the sound of my little brother, Darrell, laughing like a psycho villain. He is laughing because he has just consumed two bowls of Crunch Berries and also because he has the ten-year-old crazies. I am very annoyed because I was just having a dream in which Link from the Legend of Zelda series was serenading me with his ocarina. Link was looking especially handsome in his green tunic, and I was feeling especially beautiful in a shimmery white maiden’s robe. But alas, no more dreaming. I am awake. It is Friday.

I get up and I get dressed. I choose the same outfit as always: black pants and a black zip-up jacket with no hood. It is not that I am Goth, it is just that I enjoy black. Because I bathed last night, showering is unnecessary. Also I have no time for it. School starts in eleven minutes! I determine that I have just enough time for my daily ritual of brushing my hair 151 times—once for each of the original 151 Pokémon. However, before I am even able to get to Gengar (#94), I hear my father shouting at me. We must leave NOW, DOROTHY! he says. I leave.

For the duration of the seven-minute car ride, I make up a story. The story is about a young warrior who finds a crystal with magical properties. The crystal can transform him into anything he desires, and so he chooses to become a winged bear. However, the warrior stays in winged bear form for too long and so he is unable to turn back into a human. The rest of the story is about his adjustment to life as a winged bear. He frequents air markets and cloud salons. I think that maybe the story will end with him becoming lord of the sky. I have always wanted to title a story “Lord of the Sky.”

I am still thinking about my story as I wander into math class four minutes late. It is already my third tardy even though the school year is just four days old, and so I have been assigned detention for today. This means I will not be able to get home in time to watch Rurouni Kenshin. Drat.

Math class is dull, as always. The boys that sit behind me expect me to be great at math because I am Asian, but I defy my stereotype by getting poor scores, worse than them even. Math is usually an excellent time to develop stories because I never pay attention, but today we have a quiz. It is a review of things we were supposed to learn in elementary school. I attempt to add and multiply fractions just like every good Chinese girl should, but eventually I give up. I am expecting a C minus. However, I did draw some neat things on the back of my paper. Two broadswords and a narwhal. I hope Mr. Peterson enjoys my drawings.

In health class we are beginning a unit on nutrition. If it is so important to consume fruits and veggies, I wonder why our school’s vending machines are stocked with only cookies and candy and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? And cream cheese for people to smear on their Hot Cheetos. Our school would be a much different place if people actually behaved the way they tell you to in health class. I think about that a lot.

I have Mr. Morales for English. He is new to this place and he is also quite the hunk. Don’t tell Link LOL. We begin our class with some very boring but fairly necessary grammar exercises. I am the smartest person at them besides that curly-haired, pen-chewing whiz boy, Jacob Schwartz. Then Mr. Morales tells us to clear the desks so we can play word games. We play a rhyming game in which we attempt to make limericks as a group. At one point it is my turn, and we are doing a limerick about money. The only word that I can think of that rhymes with “coins” is “groins,” and so I shout out “GROINS!” People laugh a lot at my antics. I am not sure what kind of laughter it is.

Fourth period I have Spanish. I am already regretting the fact that I am in this class. I wanted to sign up for Latin with Mr. Gates, but my father said that I had to take Spanish because it is more useful in everyday life and because Latin is a dead language. I do not gusta español. Many of the students in the class can already speak Spanish anyway, which does not seem fair. Then again, what are they supposed to take instead—Latin? Latin is a dead language.

At lunch I go to the library, same as I did during my days at Truman Elementary. San Paulo has a big library with a really nice manga section and some funny comic books too. I think I will enjoy it here. Also, the librarians let me eat inside even though it is against the rules. Since there are not that many students who come to the library for lunch, the ones that do are kind of part of this special club where eating is allowed. I call us The Lunch Club. The other members of The Lunch Club are as follows: Devon Adams and Willy Kreutzkampf, who like Internet role-playing games, Micah Trotter who looks at military books and atlases, and Whitney Dealy who draws pictures of horses and girls that resemble Whitney Dealy riding horses. If we ever got together to hang out as a group, I think that I would be the spunky leader. The librarians, Ms. Glass and Ms. Dooling, are like our spiritual guardians who assign us missions. I think that I will end up writing a Lunch Club story before it is all said and done.

In Life Science we are learning about the scientific method. I am most frustrated because the kinds of problems I want to get to the bottom of do not seem like they can be solved by the scientific method. For example, I want to know why men do not carry pocket watches anymore. I want to know if dragons really existed. I want to know why rolling backpacks like mine are not more popular at school. After all, they are so efficient! I think about a lot of things.

Next I go to Social Studies, where we are learning about prehistory, which means history before writing. I do not like thinking about a world without writing. How did people record their stories, just with cave paintings? I do not think I could very effectively convey a complicated story like “Lord of the Sky” just by using cave paintings.

P.E. is my final class and it is the worst part of the day. All I have to say about it is UGH! I wish they would just let me use judo for P.E. credit. I wish my father would let me take judo.

Detention is not nearly so bad. I get some good writing and drawing done. The only downside is that some of the annoying boys from my math class are there too, but they are more focused on talking about soccer and sexual things, and so they do not notice me until the very end. As a result, they do not have time to make a single joke about my lack of mathematical abilities. That is one small step for Dorothy Wu, one giant leap for Asiankind.

On the bus ride home, I try to come up with ways of explaining my detention so I do not receive punishment. I fail in coming up with a reason that does not blame my father too much, and so I end up getting grounded for the evening. That is all right. I planned to spend the rest of my day and night in my room anyway, going on various message boards and playing computer games.

I venture out of my room at 10:37 p.m. to finish the last of my brother’s Crunch Berries. What a rude awakening he will have tomorrow morning. I smile thinking about it.

Ah, is this not the life?

ALL STUDENTS: Next Monday, September 14th, is School Picture Day. Wear nice clothes and don’t forget to bring your smile!

If you still haven’t purchased a locker, go see Ms. Devlin in the business office. Bring a check for 25 dollars made out to San Paulo Junior High.

Attention All Athletes! The fall sports season is here! This season’s sports are boys soccer, girls soccer, boys flag football, girls flag football, and co-ed cross country. If you would like to join one of these teams, meet outside the gym after school today for an informational meeting. Tryouts are next week. GO PIRATES!

The Cesar Chavez Social Justice in Action Club (CCSJIAC) will be holding meetings starting next Tuesday at lunch in room 120. See Ms. Montez for details.

Please observe the Dress Code. School rules prohibit any wearing of tank tops, clothes with bared midriffs, hats, baggy shorts, or Oakland Raiders jerseys.

In observance of September 11, there will be a one-minute moment of silence tomorrow during 2nd period from 9:04–9:05. Please be respectful.

Remember, starting this year, San Paulo is a no gum, no iPods, no cell phones school! Those found with any of the aforementioned items will be given a detention. No exceptions.

3 • Hannah Schwartz

Tuesday, September 15

So, essentially my problem is this: Kristen likes Alex, but Alex is torn between Avery P. and Meghan. Avery P. kind of likes Avery S.—which would be really cute, right? Two Averys dating? But Avery S. is fully, completely, madly in love with Rachel Sloan, and he even hooked up with her for like seven seconds during spin the bottle at Lauren Gardner-Smith’s birthday last weekend. But everyone knows that Rachel doesn’t want a relationship so soon after breaking up with Creepy Tyler, and since that’s like common knowledge, Avery S. told Spenser Walker that if he can’t get Rachel then he wants Kristen instead, and so then Spenser passed that along to me and so now I’m not sure if I should tell Kristen, because that would definitely ruin everything.

I know. It’s hard to believe that all this could have happened in the last week, but that’s San Paulo for you. If you’re not checking Facebook every five seconds, you’re going to miss something huge. And if you’re the last person to hear the big news, you’re going to look like an idiot.

I’m just glad I’ve been able to stay out of it so far. I mean yeah, there were some rumors that that unusually cute sevvy Jeremy Farnsworth liked me, and of course it’s only a matter of time before people start asking each other to the Halloween Dance, but mostly I just want to keep away from all the drama and focus on school stuff.

That’s much easier said than done, though. No matter what, boys will always be a major part of my life. I mean, well, hmm. That came out wrong. I’m not saying that I’m the one who gets so involved in all the relationship drama. I personally think boys are a waste of time. I mean, after all, I’m the only one out of all my friends who’s never had a boyfriend, and I plan on keeping it that way until at least sophomore year of high school.

But I have to admit that the gossip is fun to follow. Keeping track of all that stuff—who’s dating who, who cheated on who, who gave who a hickey the night before picture day—it’s sort of like our school is Hollywood and I’m like Us Weekly. Someone call the Fashion Police! Oh gosh, I wish we did have a Fashion Police. I would have totally arrested Corinne Allison today on two counts of first-degree frumpy. She needs to save her overalls for when she marries an obese farmer. Which will happen.

I mean, it’s all in good fun. I think we all realize at the end of the day that while we do say some heinous things, there’s no deeper meaning behind them. Like, just because you call a certain girl slutty doesn’t mean it’s actually true. Well, in the case of Ashley Clarke, it is. But she knows what she did.

Or rather, who.

Johnny Graham. Johnny Graham. Johnny Graham. Can I just say bom chicka wah wah.…

Oh I know, I know. That’s probably not true and I shouldn’t spread it like it is. Okay, time for a New School Year’s Resolution: don’t be a yotch. That’s almost as bad as being a slut.

I was talking with my mom tonight when we went out for sushi, and she said that when she went to middle school, there was hardly any gossip or social scene at all. Like, they had maybe one dance a year, and if they even so much as said a boy’s name, a nun would slap them across the face with a ruler. All I have to say about that is thank GAWD my mom moved to L.A., went to USC, and met my dad. And thank JEHOVAH they decided to let me go to public school when I begged them till I cried.

I could not imagine going to a boring junior high. I would definitely die a slow and painful death without my friends to keep things interesting. I mean it’s not like I totally hate the school part of school—I get A’s and everything. It’s just that I find it difficult to really care about isosceles triangles and sedimentary rocks and the effing Preamble.

It’s funny because my little brother is the exact opposite. Like, he could not be more into school—he takes notes for all his classes and reads for fun and stuff. But when it comes to the social side of things, I mean yeah, Jake has his friends, but they’re all pretty lame and dorky in a sevvy-type of way. Well, except for Danny, I guess—but Danny doesn’t even really count, because he’s the son of our maid and gardener. Of course he and Jake are going to hang out.

I actually kind of want to help my brother out now that he’s at middle school with me, but it’s hard—he’s just so clueless. Like, get this: a couple of weeks ago, Jake and I were back-to-school shopping at the mall with my mom and Danny. We were at the Gap and I had the credit card and I tried to buy Jake these cool jeans. They were standard fit, vintage wash, pretty expensive, and I showed them to him and I said, “These are yours if you want them.” And do you know what he did? He actually flinched. Like these were haunted pants or something. Like these were Horcrux jeans with a piece of Lord Voldemort’s soul in them. Like it was going to kill him to actually wear something acceptable for once. God. I guess if they’re not sweatpants or pasta-sauce-stained shorts, then Jake’s not gonna wear them.

Danny took me up on the jeans offer. He knows what’s up.

Look—it’s not as if I’m totally obsessed with being popular, like a skinny blond cheerleader from a Disney Channel show or something. It’s just that I’ll take being a little bit cool over being completely lame. Jake is so close to becoming one of those kids who becomes defined by what a loser they are, and I just don’t want that. Like, that’s embarrassing for me. There’s this other sevvy I heard about, this Asian girl Dorothy something, and I’ve heard the funniest stories about her—like I heard that at her old school, she had no friends, and so she’d just walk around during recess, talking to herself and making animal noises, and when someone came near her, she’d meow and ribbit until they went away or whatever. I just don’t want Jake to be considered in the same league as her.

But why waste my time talking about such irrelevant humans. Allow me to move on to a subject much nearer and dearer to my heart: Chad Beck.

I heart Chad Beck. I heart him so much. I know I said before that I would never date until sophomore year, but… well…it’s Chad. I mean, his name is CHAD, for God’s sake. That’s pretty much like, “Hotness: the name.”

(Other contenders for Hotness: the name—Sky, Brody, Heath, Aiden, Luca. But sorry, I just don’t see how any of those can beat Chad.)


On Sale
Aug 20, 2013
Page Count
352 pages