Will Ingersoll stood in the hallway outside the school cafeteria and looked at the students gathered around a table with a hand –painted sign that read “Free Cookies.” Jeremy Anton was behind the table, pushing clipboards and cookies at anybody who walked by. Mr. Ingersoll felt a presence next to him and turned to see Principal Marika Johnson surveying the students at the table. Principal Johnson’s hair was loosely but fashionably piled atop her head, and her deep teal suit and gold jewelry set off her ebony skin. She held a giant keychain in one hand and a walkie-talkie in the other.
“What’s this about?” Principal Johnson said to Mr. Ingersoll, gesturing towards the table.
“I’m not sure about the details,” responded Mr. Ingersoll, “But it’s nice to see the students getting involved in the political process. Make their voices heard.”
“Huh,” said Principal Johnson noncommittally. Her walkie-talkie squawked information about parents arriving for a meeting, so she excused herself and walked off. Mr. Ingersoll walked up to the table to see what Jeremy was up to.
Jeremy was talking non-stop like a state fair vendor hawking magic shoe polish. “We’re petitioning to break off from the union, please sign here. Jim, here’s a petition for you. Sign up if you want Placerville to become its own state. Placerville could make our own rules. Drive at age 16! Sign the petition here! Here you go, thank you.” He tore off the completed signature page from the clipboard and handed it back to the nearest student. “Sign the petition to drive at age 16 in Placerville by breaking off from the U.S.! Free cookies compliments of Hangtown Bakery.” He spotted Mr. Ingersoll and waved enthusiastically.
“Jeremy, can I have a minute?” asked Mr. Ingersoll. Jeremy disengaged from the crown and came over. “What’s this petition you’ve got going? Putting something about driving age on the next ballot? I don’t think most of these students, including you, are old enough to vote.”
“Oh, it’s way bigger than that, Mr. Ingersoll,” said Jeremy. “I’m trying to get Placerville to secede from the United States, and become a sovereign country.” He beamed with pride.
Mr. Ingersoll sighed. “You can’t do that. Placerville is part of California. What are these kids really signing? Something to abolish homework?” he asked.
“No, it’s for real,” insisted Jeremy.
“You must be mistaken, Jeremy,” said Mr. Ingersoll. “Think about it. It’s not in the interest of the country to allow this.”
“That’s probably what the establishment said when women got the right to vote, or when Lincoln freed the slaves,” responded Jeremy. “Excuse me, I’ve got to get back to work.” He returned to the table and pulled out a tin of cookies in a plastic container and replenished his supply.
Mr. Ingersoll shook his head and walked towards the library to correct some essays.
Across town, at Placerville Junior High School, Steve walked into room 262, where the Science Fiction Club was about to start an episode of Battlestar Gallactica. “Can I make an announcement?” he asked the nervous youngster loading up the DVD player. Without waiting for an answer, he stood in front of the room to address the all-male gathering.
“Excuse me, excuse me, attention please! Have you heard about the petition to secede from the Union?” he asked. He saw nothing but blank stares, like cows who had been asked for directions. “Okay, let’s try this. You,” he pointed to a skinny kid with acne and a Star Trek t-shirt. “Translate this into Klingon for your people, okay? Now, everybody raise your hand if you hope to touch an actual live girl someday. That’s what I’m talking about!” he nodded as hands went up. “Do you know how that happens?” The boys looked at each other for guidance, unsure of what was going on. Steve resumed his pitch. “It’s called dating. That’s not when you sit within 10 feet of a girl at a lunch table. It’s when you drive to her house to pick her up and go somewhere, just the two of you. In order to do that, you have to drive. Do you guys want to wait until you’re eighteen to touch a girl?”
“NO!” the boys responded as a group.
“Then sign this petition so Placerville teenagers can drive again,” said Steve, pulling papers out of his backpack. “Only sign this if you live in Placerville, though. If you don’t, I don’t know what to tell ya. May the force be with you.”
While Steve was at the Junior High School, Raven stood in front of a group of girls at the mall, who had gathered to see the latest tweener flick. “Hey, you guys?” she addressed the girls with the California equivalent of “y’all.”
“I’m gathering signatures for a petition. It’s so you can drive when you’re sixteen by letting Placerville make its own rules. Who do you think drives better, girls or boys?” she asked.
“GIRLS!” the girls chorused, laughing and giggling.
Raven stood on her tiptoes for more height and authority. “Do you think it’s fair that nobody gets to drive until they’re twenty just because boys are bad drivers?” she asked loudly.
“NO!” shouted the girls, causing the concession employees to pause and look over.
“Then sign this petition,” said Raven, passing around papers and pens. “We’re trying to get it changed so we can drive at age sixteen. If you agree, sign here.”