2007-09-24: Reinvention 101


Kory_icon.gif Lee_icon.gif

Summary: Lee's epiphany and reinvention of himself continues, with a little help from Kory.

Date It Happened: September 24, 2007

Log Title Reinvention 101

In and around New York City

Lee normally loiters his way back from school, has a drink, or goes to make fun of bands, disliking the Lair and avoiding it, usually taking the back stairs. Not today. Today he cabs it back to the Lair and rushes in, talking on his cellphone, clamped against his shoulder, and writing on his Hipster PDA (a set of index cards and a binder clip) hurriedly. "Uh huh. Well, I'm telling you, don't throw it out. No, don't, don't throw it out, I want it. Yes, I'm a teacher, you can even deduct it, it's tax deductible, just hold onto it for half an hour, I'm going to get my car and come right down." He pushes aside a pile of comics and dumps out his crappy briefcase onto the counter, sorting through unread PTA memos and Directives From The Desk Of The Vice-Principal quickly. He holds up a hand to Kory, then covers the phone.

"Kory, you're manager of this dump, yes? Give yourself the afternoon off. I need some help, I…hello? Yes, hello, this is Lee Jones from Brubaker Secondary. I'm a civics teacher, and…yes, exactly, can you please not throw James Madison out until I can get there…"

He disappears briefly into the back room, where there are clunks and thunks and thuds emanating. He's not grinning, but there's a strange energy about him, a certain enthusiasm that has been missing ever since his return.

Kory opens her mouth to say hello, but shuts it again as she realizes Lee is on the phone. He pauses to cover the phone, and she opens her mouth to respond to his question, but then he's talking again. She stares after him, and decides to simply wait him out, drumming her fingers on the countertop until he calms down. Tito gets a significant glance, so he knows to take over if she really does decide to go with Lee to whatever it is he wants her to help him with.

Lee comes out with…his father's old brown leather briefcase, which has been stashed under a shelf and is now empty. He selects his textbooks, notebooks, a few papers, and slides them into the briefcase, which actually closes. The rest he gathers up and throws in the garbage behind the counter. Then he sits on the counter, "I'm telling you, I'm on my way right now, right this second, if you can just not throw him out. Yes. Please. Please. Thank you." He hangs up his cellphone. "I found an actual bust of James Madison. I can't even believe it. One day, one day of looking for stuff for the classroom, and I find a bust of James Madison. And these idiots are going to throw it out just because it didn't go at an estate sale. Can you help me out, Kory?" He laces his long fingers together and turns on exaggerated puppy-dog eyes. But still, that energy is there, and it's for his classroom?

"Um, yeah, I suppose," Kory says, cautiously. "What do you need?" She comes out from behind the counter. Thankfully, the limp is nearly gone. The cut on her face is healed too. She's still moving the arm a bit tenderly, though. "'Cause driving? Right out."

Lee says, "I just need you to help move this thing. It's not heavy, just bulky, and I don't want to put it through a window or drop it down some stairs. Hold doors. Pop the trunk. Keep the Volvo from getting towed when I'm out in front of this place. And I have to pick up a bunch of banners and…" He is peering at the 'local artists' display of indie comics and graphic novels. "Hey…" he says meditatively. "Does one of these guys need a break? i.e. they're hungry enough to do some posters for a school cheaply if it gets their name out there?"

Kory shrugs. "Yeah, I can do that." She glances at one of the ashcans, and picks up one with a very dynamic art style. "I'd be willing to bet, yeah, they'd be willing. I can hit MySpace when we get back and drop some messages." She pockets the ashcan just to remind herself. "Let's jet, then."

Lee says, "Sweet. Thank you, thank you. And thanks, Tito. Keep the slavering hordes at bay! Throw a few d4s on the ground, that'll slow them down!" And he actually sounds upbeat. He and Kory go out the back to the one parking space allotted to the apartment, where Lee's crappy Volvo sits. He chucks the briefcase in the back seat, opens the door for her and pulls out into traffic, leafing through the notes on his PDA, most of which seem to be relatively new. "I have been a complete. Idiot." he says to Kory, and his facial expression goes from intent to grinning as the crammed-full New York streets push them along.

He gave her puppy dog eyes. He made sort of an offer to help a local artist. He opened the door for her. Who is this, and what has he done with Lee? Kory gives him a sidelong glance, before reaching to take the PDA from him. "Drive. Tell me what I'm looking for." The fact that he's admitting his idiocy is new, too, but Kory resists the urge to remark upon it.

Lee says, "There should be a phone number for City Schools Warehouse number 38, I thought I had it in there somewhere. CSW 38, look for that…" He heads uptown, to a ritzy neighborhood. Stopped at a light. His phone buzzes - a text message - he reads it and grins. "From Nima." he explains. "So you, everything going all right? Stepping in at the store okay?"

"I'm looking, I'm looking," Kory assures Lee, flipping through the index cards. "Tell Nima hi for me." She shrugs. "It's been busy, but at least I'm healed enough people have stopped staring at me and asking 'oh my god what happened?'" She shrugs. "Had to juggle the dogs, too, but nothing untenable. You seem energetic about school." She manages to shut her mouth before anything more snarky than that escapes.

Lee says, "Why wouldn't I be? I mean - I should have been all along." He explains, counting off on his fingers: "I quit school and came back here when mom and dad disappeared…ran off, I should say. We looked around for them, couldn't find them, and by then it was too late to get back to the degree. But I was with my sister, who you know is great, who I missed like crazy the whole time I was out there, and I didn't even have to tread water that long before I got a decent job. Not in my field, but not completely on the other side of the planet either, and people counting on me all through it. If I wasn't going to give it my best shot, why the hell did I take it? Just to make myself miserable?" It wouldn't be the only time he's done that since his parents disappeared, not by a long shot. "What exactly did I have to complain about that was so goddamn terrible?" He shakes his head.

"This is a question I'm thrilled to hear you asking," Kory replies, settling back against the seat. "Okay, CSW38. Here it is. Directions?" She glances sidelong again, not so much disturbed now as she is curious.

Lee says, "Yeah, can you see if it's off the thruway or if I can get there by coming back around on the bypass?" He smiles again, rubbing his chin. "I wish I could tell you more about it, I really do. I was in class and this punk drug dealing kid asked me why he had to be there, and I just knew, I knew why he had to be there. I wanted him to be there, I wanted him to take what I had to offer, and up until now? I haven't been offering him or anyone much to talk about."

Kory regards the directions for a moment, before she says, "You could take the bypass, but the thruway's likelier more direct." She smiles over at him, cheered by his improved mood. "No, but that you recognized that puts you ahead of probably 85% the whole city."

Lee says, with a modest shrug, "Plenty of people can like what they do. You do. Is my job ideal, no. Can I make it better instead of worse, you bet I can. Thruway it is. So my next problem is the administration is making me teach this crappy state test because my class is reading three grade levels behind and the chance that they'll catch up to the questions on the test is almost zero. Now - I don't have anything to lose in this situation. They won't pass the test if I do it the way the administration wants, and they'll shitcan me at the end of the year. So if I can just come up with some other way, some project, some way to get them up to speed…"

"Um, you do know there's a comic shop under your apartment," Kory says, gently. "They're the right age, and the fact that there've been movies, so that might get them interested enough that they'll start there, move to graphic novels, and then on to the regular kind. Peter David. Diane Duane. Jim Butcher. All of them have comics and straight print novels. I read somewhere kids who have trouble with regular reading don't even realize they're not having trouble when comics makes it fun." She glances at the card again. "Right at the next light."

Lee turns right. "I had a re-awakening, not a lobotomy." he teases, but then he says, "No, no. Any reading is good reading for these kids. If you remember where you read that, let me know, when the administration finds out, I'll need the references for backup. Okay. Some are not going to like comics. Maybe most. Some of these are 'cool kids.'"
"There are comics for every taste, and you'd be surprised what you can disguise with Contac Paper," Kory chirps. She's apparently gone through this before. "And yeah, I'll look it up when I get home. I'm pretty sure I've still got the book." She glances at the directions again. "Three lights, one more right, and then it should be at the end of the street, where it dead ends."

Lee says, "Okay…how about a mock legislature, or constitutional convention? Something like that, something where they're responsible for things, where they'll get invested in it. I think I saw some lesson plans online…can you write that down on the 'google' card?"

"Sure, you got it," Kory replies. There's a pen tucked in her sling, which she uses to do as asked. "You really plan to get these kids fired up. Anything else I can do to help? Romeo + Juliet on DVD, the one with the 21st century twist?"

Lee says, "Hah…if I was doing Literature class, I might. And if I can pull out at least a twenty percent pass rate, I might get a crack at one next year." The prospect makes him smile blissfully. He always loved literature. "I don't want to get too simplistic, either. They have been talked down to pretty much for the last two years, since the school started tracking them into crap classes to keep them from disrupting the 'good kids'. They need a challenge."

"Legally Blonde, then," Kory decides, without missing a beat. "The 'you're too dopey to pull this off' story where she shows them, without compromising herself. You might even be able to pull off a field trip to the musical." She glances up. "There it is. Parking spot, 2 o'clock."

Lee says, "Excellent. I'm going to be in and out here. Pop the trunk." He bustles into the warehouse and emerges a moment later with tripods, some posterboard, and some rolled-up posters, assisted in this by a bewildered city employee. "Okay, right. It's on Brubaker, yeah." he explains. "The purchase order, I had it faxed over this afternoon. Right." He hops in the car. "Madison is right up the street. What about readings? This textbook is actually not too bad. I need short stories, fiction or nonfiction, about politics. In brief, like seeing one little maneuver that they can talk about and dissect. Put that on the google card too."

Kory reaches over and pops the trunk, before working her way out the door. She obediently scribbles as Lee rambles. She finds herself smiling, finally caught up in his newfound enthusiasm. "Legal Eagles, a little old, but also worth a watch. Oh, and there's that really good one with Cher…"

Lee grins. "I'll have to review all these, I hardly remember most of them." This time he has to park pretty much in a very upscale street. "Don't let anyone tow us….when you see me at the door, come up and hold it for me." This one takes a little while longer, a lot of horn-blowing as cars have to dodge around Lee's clunker. Then James Madison's white face is visible at the door, Lee teetering behind.

Kory has to fast talk a police officer to explain the situation, and then just as he's grudgingly gone on his way, Lee and the bust appear in the door. "Geez, you weren't kidding. That thing's huge." She leans into the door with her good arm to let him past. "Trunk's open. Make it quick. The cop said we had fifteen minutes before he comes back and cites you."

Lee stumbles out…but doesn't trip, doesn't fall. In fact by the time he's halfway down the stairs, there's a perfect grace to his movements that makes it quick work. "Move, move the tripods over, I don't want to splinter them…can you reach back in there?" he gulps for breath.

"Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii think so," Kory replies, stretching and reaching. It takes her standing on one foot, and that on her toes, before she can shove one tripod out of the way and clutches the other against her chest so as to tuck it into the back seat instead. "So what're you using big Jimmy here, for, anyway? Or is this another thing to inspire them?"

Lee says, after the 'ommmmmmfffff' of leveraging the bust into the back of the car - his ear is busted off but it's not immediately noticeable. He dusts his hands off, pauses. He reaches down to pat Jemmy's head. "They don't want a friend, they've got friends. They want a teacher. They don't want another hangout, they want a classroom. A real deal classroom, like the ones in the movies, with things to look at. Texture. Wherever they look, they are going to see something that somehow will tickle their brain. That's the plan."

"Oh. Well, then, you should probably see about cheap Pariscraft. Or papier mache. They may blow it off as baby stuff, or they may decide to build their own Statue of Liberty." Kory went to a liberal arts school; the other students were art types; she might've mentioned it a time or two. "Think outside the box."

Lee says, "Art projects, that's a thought." The car jerks back into traffic. "Okay. I need some cheap new clothes. Coats, mostly. Do you know if that secondhand shop on Baxter Way is still open? The one that always has the going out of business sale sign up."

"I think so," Kory answers. "If not, there's that place up St. Marks, and the one just south of Union Square. Debate jackets?" She braces a foot against the dash so she can write down numbers of the places, the better to check. "Ties?"

Lee says, "Ties, yes, but no. The coats are for me. I've been slumming it and they can tell."

"In that case, clear your schedule. I can get Chris to make time to give you a proper haircut, too," Kory adds, scribbling it down. "Something other than 'mop-gelled-into-submission'. Something stylish but easy to manage."

Lee says, "Really? I don't know, how expensive is he? I don't want to trade on your friends. Massaging the system and yelling at people with expired craigslist entries is one thing…"

Lee adds, "My hair, by the way, is great."

"Your hair makes you look like a bewildered Airedale," Kory ripostes. "And he'd be willing to cut you a break, I'm sure. Worse to worst, I just have to take Ickle Ronniekins out for a week on me. Like that's such a chore."

Lee says, "You disapprove of Airedales? Hmf." with a smirk, but then he says, "Thanks. I do appreciate it. And thanks for the help. I wish I could tell you everything that's been going on, that's been going through my head, but it's just too crazy. Most of it you wouldn't believe, and the rest of it, you'd think less of me for it." And it matters to him what she thinks?!

"I don't disapprove of Airedales," Kory chuckles. "I disapprove of you looking like one, as you're, y'know, not a dog." She pats his shoulder with her good hand. "Well, it's not like you don't know where to find me if you do decide you have been able to sort through it enough to talk about it." A silent brow raises at that last remark. Since when did he care what she thinks?! She ducks her head and returns her attention to his index cards, rather than let him see how startled that made her.

Lee says, "True, true. I talked to Nima this morning and she said
things are going well in Philly, but it's a big project. I think it's her way of coping. Not a huge revelation to you, I'm sure."

"Yeah, I don't doubt. I wasn't expecting to have this handed to me so suddenly," Kory admits. "But doors closing, windows opening, new challenges. Besides, I get to read all the new comics Wednesday nights after we've inventoried and closed down." She blows a wisp of hair out of her face. "I'll give her a call this weekend after she's had some time to herself *not* involving the new branch."

Lee says, "I'm staying in better touch than I did when I was in California. I loved the work out there, but I missed her a lot. Hell, even the store, since it's where I could always find her."
Kory's too practiced in schooling her emotions to snap her head up and stare at Lee for saying that. "Always nice to know certain things are safe and dependable, yeah," she agrees. "She missed you terribly, too. Heck, even I missed ya. A little."

Lee looks surprised himself. "Nice of you to say, given how much I tormented you and all of Nima's other friends before I split town…" he joshes.

"Yeah, well, we figured it was your clumsy, awkward, stunted, obnoxious way of showing affection," Kory tells him with an affectionate half-smile. "And hoped it was a phase you'd grow out of. Looks like we were right."

Lee thinks about that for a little while. "I'll take what I can get." he says, almost thoughtfully, like he's putting that in his mind with all the other changes he has to make.

"So we bringing this back to the shcool tonight, or were you planning on, y'know, eating and sleeping at some point?" Kory arranges the index cards neatly into an alphabetic stack as she speaks.

Lee says, "Eating…damn….yes. We should do that. There'll be a place over on Baxter…Chinese good?"

"Chinese? Not for a manic phase," Kory shakes her head vigorously. "You'll burn it all off and be hungry again too soon, the state you're in. There's a Greek place that just opened up back by the Lair, at the other end of St. Mark's."

Lee says, "Greek's good." It really doesn't feel like a date, he has too many places to go and his mind is too "elsewhere." He's working, trying to change things, putting effort in places he isn't accustomed to. It's friendly, and he's grateful for her help, but that's all it is. Piling the stuff in the back room of the shop for him to assemble and take to school over the next week is the last thing on the night's agenda.

Kory isn't treating it like a date, oh, no. She's dutifully following him around, helping him keep his cards straight, making sure he doesn't forget anything he wants to remember. She also doesn't seem to tire out as easily as one might expect, despite the last remnants of the injuries she suffered a week and change back. In fact, after Lee finally calls it a night, she's still sorting through things and arranging them neatly so they'll be easy for him to grab when he comes in next. A couple aisles go down the center of the room so he has easy access. It's probably about five a.m. when she finally locks up for the night to head home herself.

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