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Excerpt: 'Death Is Not An Option'

Death Is Not An Option

It's the first night of the retreat, the slide show is starting, and I pray to be spared from the Free Willy song, which the school administration geniuses have decreed the anthem of our senior year. And this is nothing new: every year they carefully pick the shittiest song they can find to "represent" Sacred Heart. Freshman year it was "U Can't Touch This." The year after it was "Whoomp! (There It Is)." License plates and bumper stickers were made-up.

Each new attempt to convince us they're down with our jive talk is more horrific than the last. This is even worse than last year when Mr. Grealey brought in a rockin' hymn about how "ballistic" Jesus was and substituted it for the regular hymns in Glory and Praise, and every Mass we took Communion to the sounds of "Our God Is an Awesome God," which featured a drum machine and Whitesnake guitar solo. It made me wish I lived in the pre–Vatican II days when everything was in Latin and the nuns beat you with rulers.

Hold me like the River Jordan . . .

For a while I keep my mind off the horror by fondly recalling the time I devised a custom-made vocab self-test

in preparation for the SATs. I created my own analogies. I did fill-in-the-blanks with tricky look-alike multiple-choice options like ascetic and aesthetic. Then I let it sit for a while before I took it, drinking strong tea and making obscene anagrams out of saints' names. That was fun, too. I got a 780 verbal. I got a scholarship to Brandeis, which will enable me to escape the acid-precipitating, mutant-amphibian-producing industrial wasteland of Muskegon. But I don't even care. I keep telling my parents, Let me take it again! I'll get an 800 this time! Not until the GREs roll around, prep guides thick as phone books, will I once again enter the glorious realm of vocab memorization.

Kyra leans close in the dark and hisses, "Does this song actually have a name? Or is it referred to only as 'Free Willy'?"

"I don't know," I say. "But it makes me hate whales. It makes me want to go harpoon one."

"How come there are no pictures of us in this slide show?" Kyra says. She runs a hand through her glinty blond hair and a whiff of fake-papaya mousse hits me. "Are we not worthy of Free Willy?"

She's right. We -- Kyra and me, Sasha and Gretchen -- were forced to pose for cheesy pictures six months ago on Spirit Day for the purpose of later seeing ourselves in this slide show at the end-of-the-year weekend retreat at St. Monica's Cabins. The slide show is apparently so peerless in its majesty that they couldn't even wait for us to unpack before forcing us to view it. We got off the bus from Muskegon and were immediately herded to the main lodge through all this blue-green undergrowth riddled with Lyme-disease-carrying ticks, dragging all our shit after us, because the Sacred Heart Showcase just couldn't wait. And it's not like we flipped off the camera. We are too refined for that. We are pissed and we hate Sacred Heart, but we are refined. But we didn't smile either. Gretchen had her I'm-too-sexy-for-my-shirt look going, the horizon-gazing supermodel pout. The rest of us just slouched like disaffected youth. Which is probably why none of our pictures made it into this touching retrospective, despite the fact that we are the sole members of the student body who are literate and unlikely to get knocked up in a trailer or convicted of date rape by graduation.

I start getting a weird feeling during the umpteen stills from last semester's Festival of Faith "talent" show featuring Amber Golin's interpretive dance -- streamers and a leotard were involved -- to R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion." She ruined that song for me forever, not to mention she completely missed the point -- it's called "Losing My Religion," not "Celebrating My Patriarchal Religion with a Cheesy Streamer Dance Featuring My Huge Camel Toe." But Mr. Grealey, the "creative director" of the whole travesty, ate Amber's performance up because it contained the word religion.

Excerpted from Death Is Not An Option: Stories by Suzanne Rivecca. Copyright 2010 by Suzanne Rivecca. Excerpted by permission of W.W. Norton & Co.

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