The High School on a Swamp

September 11, 2008

Here we have another creative writing assignment. The assignment was to focus on setting, picking something from our home towns that represents a certain truth about the place.

My high school was built on a swamp. Not a ‘swampy’ swamp. Not the sort of swamp where you might find the creature from the Black Lagoon. No, just the sort of swamp that sinks a half inch every year when it has to bear the load of of a thousand teenagers.

A forest once surrounded my high school. Any direction you looked, there was a grove of trees between you and the ‘real’ world. In a way, that protected the high school from all the roads and highways surrounding it. Now all those trees are gone. Which doesn’t do a thing for the flooding around my high school. The flooding from being built on a swamp.

The forest of trees has been replaced by a forest of security cameras. They stare down with their unblinking eye, passing judgement on those who walk beneath them. The principal, in his office, has a giant, hi-tech monitor where he watches all the video feeds at once. I could have sworn when I walked by that office I heard cackling.

My high school, Chichester, was almost named Sun Valley, after nearby Sunoco Oil. If the board of trustees has decided to sell out to the oil companies, the school would not have been built on a swamp. But the town decided to keep our name. I have to remind myself of this. Remind myself every time I pass through a field where trees once grew. Every time I note a new crack in the wall, where the ceiling is now a half-inch lower. Every time I look up, expecting a blank ceiling to rest my gaze, and instead meet the stare of an eye in the sky. I remind myself that the school and I have more in common than sinking half an inch every year. Once, a long time ago, we both had a purpose.

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