March 22, 2021
Read part 5 here.
That weekend, Jack did Jack.
He made fourteen tackles in the game against Haller. Feasted on pizza Saturday night. Messaged friends. Watched TV. Hurried through his homework Sunday evening. But all through everything, his thoughts kept drifting back to Emilio Garcia. What was he doing? What was he eating? Did he have people to talk to?
Jack went to sleep Sunday night wondering what else he could do to be heard.
He groaned when he woke up Monday with the answer.
He didn’t like it, so all morning at school he tried to escape from it.
It was like trying to dodge water when you’re swimming. He gave up and took out the paper. Under “Shout Love” he wrote a second sentence.
Keep Shouting It.
At lunchtime, Jack Jenk left the school grounds and walked three blocks to New Oslo Town Square. It was a cool fall day and a smattering of townspeople were bustling about their errands. Jack hoped none of them would recognize him.
He stepped up onto the bandstand and shouted three times: “I love you Emilio Garcia! I love you Emilio Garcia! I love you Emilio Garcia!”
Some of the passersby glanced at him curiously. One old man frowned and shook his head. Most people ignored him, thankfully.
Jack sat down on the bandstand steps to eat his turkey sandwich. He felt half-idiotic and half-amazing.
But before, he’d felt mostly idiotic and only a little amazing. If he kept shouting love, maybe the amazing part would just get bigger and bigger.
He decided to find out.
On Tuesday, Ms. Bergson gave him access to the art room during independent study. That’s why later, when Jack arrived at Town Square with his lunch, he was carrying a poster with a blown-up picture of Emilio Garcia on it.
Jack unrolled the poster and held it over his head. “I love you Emilio Garcia” he shouted three times. He rolled the poster up, stuffed it back in his backpack, and sat down to eat his ham sandwich.
He giggled. He felt so giddy and stupid.
This time a handful of people heard him. A few were indifferent. Several scowled, including a woman Jack recognized as Mark Farkle’s mom. One young man in a red-and-black flannel shirt with long black hair flashed Jack a peace sign and a smile.
Word got around.
On Wednesday at lunchtime, a few classmates followed him, including Mark Farkle. Jack felt embarrassed, but he did his three shouts anyway. He didn’t want the broken-wheel feeling to come back.
His classmates laughed at him. Mark Farkle laughed loudest. Jack didn’t care.
On Thursday, his entire class followed him to Town Square (except Keisha, who was using her lunch time to write letters to senators). A lot of kids from other grades showed up, too. And the crowd of grownups was growing. Jack saw Coach Wahl, his football coach, in the crowd. Coach Wahl looked like he’d just found a hair stuck in his teeth. Jack unrolled the poster and almost lost his nerve. Emilio’s like a brother, he told himself.
“I love you Emilio Garcia!” he shouted. “I love you Emilio Garcia! I love you Emilio Garcia!”
When he was done, nearly everyone was laughing or grumbling. “See you online, Jenk,” shouted Mark Farkle, waving his phone.
“They belong in jail!” grumbled one of the grownups. “Jail!”
It was Coach Wahl.
Jack stuffed his poster in his backpack and opened his mouth to say something, but what was he going to say? He didn’t know what he was doing or why he was doing it. He just knew that he had to do it. It felt right deep down.
Jack’s eyes found the flannel shirt man. He gave Jack the thumbs-up. It was enough.
Jack took a bite of meatloaf sandwich but he wasn’t very hungry.
That night, as usual, he turned on his phone. “No,” he whispered. “No, no … ” He flicked from post to post, from friend to friend, from one story to another.
All he saw were pictures and videos of himself. A big pale kid holding up a poster and shouting his love for a scrawny brown kid he didn’t know from Adam.
And the comments.
“Idiot.” “Loser.” “Crazy.” And the worst thing you could call a football player, “Soft.”
Coach Wahl showed up that night to talk to Jack’s parents. Certain words floated up to Jack’s room. “Worried about him … losing his focus … big game this weekend ….”
Jack Jenk went to sleep wondering what to do.
He got the answer in the morning. A single word.
He knew better than to hide from it.
He took out the answer paper and wrote it down.
Keep Shouting It.
The story continues next week …
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