PHILIP Darning knew he would be tested. He just didn’t realize it would happen on the very first day of the school year.
He sat at his new desk facing a male student. Philip rubbed the back of his hand where the student’s fingers had gripped it in a handshake. The boy had pale blonde hair and sharp blue eyes. His name was Reuben Skinner. He was a senior this year, and over the course of his high school career he had accumulated an impressive list of misdeeds and strange behavior. He even spent the majority of the previous year institutionalized.
Philip was not entirely sure why Reuben Skinner came to see him. He tried asking the boy a few probing questions to see if he could weed out the reason for this visit, but Reuben just continued to study the new guidance counselor without making a peep.
After an awkward fifteen-minute conversation—one-sided on Philip’s part—Reuben smiled and stood up. “Yep, I think you’ll do.”
Given Reuben’s scrutiny, Philip suspected the boy was sizing him up. He wasn’t terribly surprised by this. Based on his history, Philip had expected Reuben Skinner to test his boundaries and see what he could get away with. He just hadn’t expected him to remain silent the whole time. All the same, he smiled pleasantly at the boy.
“Wanted to make sure I was good enough to work here?”
“Something like that,” said Reuben. At Philip’s office door, he paused. “Oh, but you might want to keep a lid on those swinger parties you and your wife attend. I’m not judging your lifestyle, but you do work with impressionable high schoolers. The PTA doesn’t look very kindly on those types of extracurricular activities.” Philip blanched. Reuben grinned at him and winked. “Welcome to Coon Falls, Mr. Darning.”