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Book Reports for Assholes: An Illustrated Guide
Topic Started: Dec 7 2015, 10:02 PM (621 Views)
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And I am still hungry.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Jae tapped his fingers impatiently against the library table, trying to resist the urge to glance up at the clock again. It had probably been only about two minutes max since he'd last looked, anyway, and it wasn't like he expected his fellow group project members to have anything approaching the basic decency to show up on time, given who he was partnered with.

He'd scribbled some half-hearted notes on The Great Gatsby to try and at least appear to care about this group report, but they all boiled down to "Daisy's a useless bitch and Gatsby needs to get over her and also himself". Also he didn't care. At all. English was one of his better subjects, but nothing bored him more than someone shoving two-hundred pages of annoying people whining about their first-world problems in his face and telling him it was a classic.

By the time anyone else actually joined him, he'd given up on notes and was doodling in the margins of his notebook, quietly stewing in his irritation and ready to let whoever approached him have it. You give people one goddamn job - showing up on time, in this case - and they can't even manage that. But fine. If that's the way they wanted to do things, Jae could handle it. They would have the best project in the whole class, even if he had to drag his group kicking and screaming the whole way, and he would be sure that everyone knew who deserved most of the credit.

"Group participation grade", what a joke.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Alvaro Vacanti rushed himself towards the school library as fast as he could, weaving his way through the other students. He kinda wished that they’d move a little bit quicker; sure, it was raining outside, but he needed to get to the library and they were moving at a snail’s pace, which was annoying. Some people weren’t even walking at all, they were just standing in the halls blocking the way, which was even more annoying. Wasn’t it against school rules to be inside buildings? Maybe there was an exception if it was raining, or something. It’d be mean if students had to stand out in the rain for long periods of time, so it was understandable. Still inconvenient for anyone trying to get somewhere, though.

So Alvaro power walked through the hallways as swiftly as he could, apologizing to anyone and everyone he accidently bumped into. He and the rest of his math class had been held back by Miss Maureen Brown, because there were some jocks in the back row being too loud or something. It wasn’t really that fair, but he didn’t complain, even though it was actively breaking the Geneva convention. He probably would have been held back for longer if he had protested, anyway. At least he was one of the first that Mrs Brown let go though, so he didn’t waste too much time; but being held back when he had to go work on a group project with a couple other people was really inconvenient. It wouldn’t help his image to them, either. Alvaro Vacanti, always shows up late. He hoped that that wasn’t what they thought of him.

Alvaro turned the last corner, and finally made it to the school library. As soon as he caught his breath, he put his bag down on the floor, taking out his laptop and school binder and placing them where he could hold them. Then he walked into the library. It was warm, crowded; not a surprise considering the rain. The library tended to be packed with people who didn’t normally come here when it was raining, which made it hard for him to get a spot by himself, although today it seemed to be a lot less crowded than usual. He looked around, trying to find the table where his group was.

It turned out that he was the second one here. Min-jae Parker was sitting on one of the tables, by himself. He wasn’t really someone Alvaro knew; goth person, didn’t go to the cafe. He was probably a nice person, though. He moved over to the table, waving over at it.

“Heya, Min-Jae! Sorry I’m late, Mrs Brown kinda kept us in late. Did anyone else arrive?”
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Oh, goody. So not only could Alvaro not tell time, he was also blind. Jae indicated the empty table with a sweep of his arm. "No."

He kept tapping his fingers against the table edge as Alvaro took a seat, tempted to just launch into his explanation of their project. Of course if he did that, he'd just have to repeat himself later, since Alvaro was the only one here at the moment. He considered doing it anyway and just letting Isaac fend for himself; if anyone was likely to give less of a fuck about group projects than Jae, it was Isaac. Maybe it was better to just assume he wouldn't bother and save them all the trouble.

His train of thought was interrupted by some freshman bumping his chair as she passed, and he shot her a glare. Fucking underclassmen.

"We're stuck until Isaac gets his shit together and gets here. Or doesn't. I'm giving him ten more minutes."
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Ouch. Jae just flat out said no. That wasn’t a good sign for Alvaro. Maybe Jae didn’t want to be here. He probably didn’t want to be with him and wanted to let it be known right away. Did Alvaro do anything, though? Did he mess up? He wasn’t sure. Could be that Jae was normally like this to everyone? No, probably not. Those people don’t actually exist outside of fiction, right? No, it was probably something that he did. Something he said that put him on Jae’s bad side without him ever realising it. But if he did it to Jae how many other people could he have pissed off without knowing? Ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod. He’d have to look back, think about who he talked to today while on his shift.

Although it could just be Jae. He kinda looked threatening; taller than Alvaro, dressed mostly in black. Admittedly, he looked kinda scary. Alvaro just nodded at Jae and sat in his seat, waiting for Isaac.
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((Memories, all alone in the moonlight, co-staring Isaac Breasand))

The chances of being struck by lightning out of the blue were something like one in a million, if he was remembering the random shit he read on the internet right. Isaac was liking those odds right about now. It was a better chance than this book report bullshit actually going well. Maybe that wasn't fair, but Jae was a testy asshole, he was a slacker, and Alvaro...maybe the kid was an egghead, he honestly didn't know anything about him other than "that kid whose family maybe owned a cafe or something."

Spoiler alert for the kids watching at home: Isaac had not read the book they're supposed to be reporting on. He didn't even remember the title. But that was fine, it probably wasn't important. He'd wing it until one of them mentioned something and just kinda go along with it as much as possible. Just the simple way to do things that didn't matter, really.

He finally made his way into the library and spotted the two of them together at a table, looking about as happy as usual. Was he late? He was probably late. He didn't rush to make it or anything. Maybe if he played it cool, they wouldn't notice or make a fucking hassle out of it. He slid up to the table and sat down with a glance to both of them. "Sup?"
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"You're twenty minutes late," Jae said flatly. "That's what's up." Honestly, the fact that Isaac had bothered to show up at all was a feat in and of itself, but that didn't mean he was going to get any breaks. Lowered expectations were probably how he'd gotten to be this way in the first place.

He sat up straighter in his chair and rolled his shoulders, unsuccessfully trying to work out some of his tension. "So let's skip the part where we pretend that any of us want to be here and get straight to the point: do either of you know anything about this book and have an idea of what we should talk about in this report? And watching the Leonardo DiCaprio movie doesn't count."
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Then Isaac came, after a little bit. Alvaro didn’t know much about him, since he didn’t go to the cafe, but he was probably a good enough person, nonetheless. “Heya, Isaac!” He tried to be friendly to him, as opposed to Min-Jae, who flatly rebuked him, just like he did Alvaro. Maybe Jae was just being super grumpy to everyone today? Possibly. Although maybe Jae just hated both him and Isaac and didn’t want to be here at all. That was also likely, but Alvaro didn’t really want that possibility to be true, to be honest.

With all three of them here now, they could start planning the report. Min-jae took the leadership role, asking them if they had any suggestions on what to do. Alvaro didn’t know about Isaac, but he read the whole book last night and had loved it, mostly because of how it dealt with morality. Nobody in the book was really sympathetic or likable, and that was an interesting direction that he hadn’t really seen in anything else he had read. Sadly, most of the time he took was reading for themes, trying to find something in there that he could write a paper about. He kinda wished that he got to read the book in his own time, but it was homework, and he needed to get a good grade so that he could work towards his future.

“I finished reading it last night, and from what I can see the main themes of the book are the decline of the American Dream in the 1920s and the hollowness of the upper class.”
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Shit. He was asking for ideas right out the gate. Isaac really didn't want to have to deal with the inevitable argument about who was supposed to read what this early into the project, seemed like a pretty sure sign that they were going to fail. Luckily Alvaro stepped up pretty quick to start throwing out themes. He listened to the quick sentence, nodding with forced consideration as he maintained eye contact with Jae. This was something he could ride. Thanks for the save, nerd.

"Yeeeaah," he started a couple seconds after Al wrapped up. "That's pretty much what I got too. Y'know, american nightmares and hollow people and all that. Standard depression stuff. It seemed pretty straightforward. How about you, sunshine? I thought this kind of cheery thing would be right up your alley."
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Alvaro was at least willing to throw something out there, even if it sounded like the same response everyone else in the class would have. Isaac... if Jae hadn't been certain before that working with Isaac was going to test his patience, his little quip had helpfully confirmed that suspicion. It was obvious that he knew what he was doing, just as much as it was obvious that he hadn't read anything about the damn book at all. Alvaro could parrot SparkNotes or Wikipedia, if nothing else.

"It's about hypocrisy," Jae said, returning Isaac's stare. "Gatsby spends nearly his entire life chasing after a dream that doesn't really exist. Nobody cares when he loses everything important and dies, no matter how much they said they loved him. The moral of the story is that people will disappoint you, no matter what you want them to be or how hard you try to make them into what they are in your head. Sometimes, they're just failures."

All of that had come out surprisingly eloquent, and Jae broke his impromptu staring contest with Isaac to jot some of it down. Making an effort to keep his tone conversational, he added, "I'm kind of surprised you didn't bring that angle up first, Isaac. I figured you'd have a lot of experience with that sort of thing." He glanced up through his bangs to see Isaac's reaction.

Petty? Probably. Worth it? Absolutely, at least right in that moment.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Jae just… ignored Alvaro, listening more to Isaac parroting Alvaro’s answer than listening to Alvaro’s answer itself. Did Jae just hate him so much that he was just mentally blocking him out now? He hoped not, this was a group project, and they had to work together if they wanted to succeed! He had to make Jae like him, show him that he shouldn’t just be ignored. He wanted to do good on this book report, and he wanted to be on good terms with Jae. He really didn’t have anything to lose here, but he didn’t know how to go about with making Jae happy. Maybe he should be nice to him? After all, there was a saying. Being nice makes people nice to you in return, or something like that.

“That’s… a pretty smart observation, Jae. I’d be willing to write a report on that!”
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Jae probably thought he was being cute, and he...was better off not finishing that thought. He could focus on the dickhead for now. If Jae wanted to play ball instead of doing this stupid report, he wasn't bothered. "Mm, yeah," he grumbled in response to Jae's attempted quip, more or less ignoring Alvaro's attempt to get them back on track as he stretched out with disinterest. "I'm pretty familiar with it. I mean, I wasn't gonna say anything, but you seem to have a pretty good handle on yourself and your limitations. It's cool though, you don't have to be so hard on yourself, you might be an emo failure or whatever but we won't hold it against you, eh Al?"

Choke on that you mopey, mouthy piece of shit.
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"Ooh, I've never heard that one before." If Jae could roll his eyes any harder, they'd probably fall out of his head. Everyone knew that Isaac thought he was hot shit when he so clearly wasn't, and Jae couldn't turn down a chance to put someone like that in their place. He was almost disappointed that this "I know you are but what am I" crap was apparently the best Isaac could do.

"Let's get this out of the way right now: you and I both know that you didn't read shit. Normally, I couldn't care less if you want to barely scrape by in class, but you are not dragging me down into whatever mediocre shitpile you spend the rest of your time in, got it?"

Come to think of it, did Alvaro usually get good grades? He was one of those people that Jae didn't pay attention to unless he had to, being neither a friend nor an... aggravation like Isaac was. He leveled Alvaro with a severe look, just to make sure they were all on the same page. "That goes for you too, but at least you did the bare minimum already."

Unlike some people was unspoken but heavily implied.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Alvaro’s words echoed through his head, him seemingly being the only person in the library to have heard them. Isaac came back at Jae with a barb, calling Jae an emo failure. Alvaro turned his head away, trying to tune himself out of whatever was going on here. Why did both of them have to be like this? Couldn’t they just calmly lay out their problems to one another and figure out a compromise? It was what Alvaro would do in this situation, if he were the leader. And if these two didn’t scare him to death. And if these two didn’t likely hate him along with the other at this moment… Okay, yeah. Alvaro wasn’t really capable of doing that, but Jae and Isaac seemed confident, they should be able to!

Looking away from the scene in front of him, he took notice of the books on the shelves next to him. One in particular took his fancy. The Alcheymst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. It looked interesting, or at least the cover did. Maybe after… whatever was happening was over he’d take it to the library counter, borrow it. It seemed to be a series, judging from the books next to it, so who knew? Maybe he’d find a book series he could call his favourite.

His thoughts snapped away from the book and back to the table as Jae addressed him, saying that something went for him, too. He didn’t hear the first part, though. What was something that went for both Isaac and Alvaro? Well, Jae likely hated both of them by now, so there was that. Alvaro seemed to be the only one who shared a bit of compassion for the other two, and he was hit back, a little, by Jae’s remark. “R-right.” Was what came out. He wasn’t sure what else he could say.
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Well, that established everything he needed to know. Isaac had come into this ready to find out whether they were doing things the easy way, or the hard way. Lucky for him, they chose the easy way!

Well, easy for him. Probably was gonna suck for them, but Jae was an asshole and Al was a coward so it was hard for him to give much thought to how they felt.

He pretended to nod and listen to Jae's little tirade, throwing in an occasional "mmmhmm" or "yeah" wherever it seemed like it'd be most appropriate or obnoxious. There wasn't much subtlety to the fact that he wasn't actually listening, especially when he started getting up and pushing his chair in as soon as Jae looked away. Before they could ask what he was doing, he gave Jae the finger guns and a big grin. "Great speech, really, it's been fun, but I just had the best idea. See, you two actually give a shit about this whole thing, right? So I don't really need to be here. You just text or e-mail me whatever you need me to say and I'll handle that. Or, y'know, don't, and we can fail! I'm not bothered either way."

With that, Isaac started to saunter away from the table. "Have fun, guys!"

Yeah. That went better than expected. Good talk all around.

((Isaac Brea Remembered Elsewhere))
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He-

He just-

"You motherf-" Jae just barely cut off the end of his growl, biting down on the inside of his cheek so hard he tasted copper. People at nearby tables had turned to look at the source of the outburst, and he couldn't see the librarian but she was surely somewhere giving him the evil eye.

Jae didn't really give a fuck. The only reason he wasn't letting loose was because Isaac had already sashayed out the door like he owned the place, and Jae wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of getting him kicked out the library without even being there. He stood and swept his notebook and supplies into his bookbag and stalked out of the library without another word, ignoring Alvaro. He didn't want to be here anymore anyway. He needed to go outside, or find a pillow to scream into or something.

You know what? Fine. Jae could do this whole thing himself if that's the way it had to be, and he could make damn well sure that everyone knew he had done it all himself because his partners were useless sacks of shit. Isaac thought he was going to get the last laugh by forcing Jae to do all the work? Fine. Let him think that for now.

When Jae saw Isaac again, he was going to be out for blood.

((Min-jae Parker continued elsewhere))
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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