There was a knock at the door.
“Come in!” Principal McGregor called. Wow. Since when was his voice that high? He cleared his throat and let out a deep cough.
“Oh I think you’ll dig it, for sure.” The boy was walking into Principal McGregor’s office backwards, one hand on the door, as he wrapped up a chat with Miss Devers, the office secretary.
“Thank you! I’m so due for a binge,” Miss Devers replied.
“Just let me know when you watch the sixth episode. Crazy,” the boy said. “Alright, gotta see what the boss needs. Take care, Jackie.”
“Principal McG!” Oakley closed the door and turned to Principal McGregor. “How are we?”
“I’m well, Oakley,” the principal said. He reached his hand out to shake and Oakley dapped him up. “Have a seat, son.”
“You get the Camaro buffed last weekend? That thing’s been looking fine in the teacher’s lot all week,” Oakley leaned back in his chair, crossing one leg over the other.
Principal McGregor nearly beamed with pride, but he caught himself, keeping his mouth straight and thin. This was not going to be easy.
“Yes, I spent a good chunk of last Sunday making it look nice. But Oakley, we’re not here today to talk about my car. We’re here to talk about your behavior at this school.”
Oakley calmly poured himself a glass of water from a pitcher on the principal’s desk.
“I have your file here, son,” Principal McGregor said, thumbing a folder that read “OAKLEY SOSA” in bold font. “And a letter from the Board of Education.” He looked at Oakley, waiting for a reaction, but he only raised an eyebrow.
“There is a pattern here. A pattern of nonchalance, popularity, and success, unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my thirty-some-odd years of teaching and managing public school. I knew it was an issue before, but only once I saw it all presented here did I realize how bad this has gotten.”
Oakley leaned forward, placing his water atop a coaster.
“Oakley …” the principal stood up and paced slowly behind his desk, staring out at the football field through the window shutters. “How many sports do you play here at JHS?”
“That’s a tough one. It really depends what team could use me in a given week.”
“Let me rephrase that. How many sports will you letter in this year?”
Oakley scratched his chin. “Football, soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, baseball, track and golf. And I keep stats for the bowling team.”
“Do mathletes get a varsity letter?”
“Then that as well.”
“I didn’t realize you were on the math team.”
“It’s just numbers.”
The principal barked a sharp laugh and sat back down at his desk, flipping somewhat manically though the papers in Oakley’s file before settling on a page.
“Ah! Here. Your final project for Mrs. Rutherford’s US History class went viral?”
Oakley chuckled. “I forgot about that.”
“What was it?”
“Ruthie said we could do a PowerPoint or make a video. I called up some friends and threw together a short rock opera on the Gold Rush.”
“It says in my notes here that Lin Manuel-Miranda retweeted the film?”
“Yeah, I think he might’ve.”
Principal McGregor wiped some sweat from his brow and continued scrolling through the file.
“Junior Prom,” he said. “You fielded eighteen promposals before February. That’s a county record. And it was supposed to be a guys’ choice dance.”
“I was so embarrassed,” Oakley replied, laughing.
“JHS TV wanted to air your decision. I remember having to shut that down.”
“Good looks, boss.”
“Who’d you end up taking, by the way?”
“My Grandma. Best dancer I know.”
“Of course,” Principal McGregor exhaled. He spread some papers out across his desk. “Alright, Sosa. Speed round. JHS drug dealers refuse to let you pay for weed?”
“They’re good guys.”
“Your party over the summer invited the whole school, even the band nerds, and had a crocodile?”
“It was an alligator.”
“Our janitor Mr. Hummel named you godfather to his son?”
“Greg Alexander! 7 pounds, 11 ounces.”
“And you were nominated for four senior superlatives as a freshman?!”
“I was robbed on Best Eyes, between you and me.”
Principal McGregor got up again from his chair, but this time walked to the front of his desk. He leaned against the edge and picked up the Board of Education’s letter.
“The Board’s made a ruling, Oakley. It’s right here in the letter. They took into account everything we’ve just discussed and quite a bit more. How you always have enough gum for the entire class. How you bubbled in the SAT randomly on a bet and scored a 1350. How you brought roller backpacks back. They’re upset with your name, too. Oakley Sosa? Does it need to be that cool?”
Oakley uncrossed his legs and sat up in his chair.
“Dave, are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“Yes,” the Principal whispered, his voice quivering. “You have been deemed … too cool for school. You’ve been expelled.”
Oakley didn’t say anything for a few moments. He ran his hands through his hair, then nodded quietly.
“Well we had a good run, didn’t we?”
“We sure did,” Principal McGregor replied.
“I guess I’ll see myself out?”
“It seems to be … for the best.”
Oakley nodded again and turned from the chair, heading for the door. For the first time since he’d entered the office, he avoided eye contact with the principal.
“O-Oakley, wait!” Principal McGregor shouted desperately.
“Yeah?” He stopped at the door.
“This wasn’t my call! I promise! I fought the Board on this. With everything I had.”
“I know you did, Dave.”
“You leave here,” the principal wiped away a tear, “at the top of your grade in GPA and missed classes.”
“I’ll never forget this place.”
“Where will you go?”
Oakley considered it for a moment. “New Zealand. I’ve heard good things.”
“Of course,” Principal McGregor nodded. “Will I ever see you again?”
“Impossible to say.” He stretched his hand out to Principal McGregor, who clumsily tried to dap him up. Oakley gave him a firm handshake. “Say hi to Alice and the kids for me, will ya?”
He turned and walked out the door. Principal McGregor could hear a couple kids waiting for detention yell “Oakley! What’s good?!”
“Goodbye, Oakley Sosa,” he murmured to himself. “You were too cool for this world.”