The Fury of Firestorm #40

    The Fury of Firestorm » The Fury of Firestorm #40 - Graduation Day released by DC Comics on October 1, 1985.

    Short summary describing this issue.

    Graduation Day last edited by ltjfleetwood41 on 08/15/18 07:36PM View full history

    Ronnie responds to allegations that he cheated after scoring high on all his final exams. Ronnie and his arch-rival Cliff Carmichael have another in their long series of disputes. Felicity Smoak sues Firestorm for super-hero malpractice. Ronnie graduates high school and his Dad introduces his new fiancee.

    Firestorm826's Panel-by-Panel Story Summary (Spoiler Alert)

    Principal Wallace Hapgood’s office, on a bright June morning at Bradley High, a morning when Ronnie Raymond’s world seems to collapse like an over-expanded soap bubble… “I don’t believe this,” Ronnie says in exasperation, “You’re calling me a cheat?” He leans anxiously on Principal Hapgood’s desk. Two of Ronnie’s teachers stand on either side of him as Principal Hapgood listens. “Ronald, how can I be happy about this?” Hapgood answers, “Your father’s a good friend of mine. But the evidence…” Ronnie interrupts, asking, “What evidence? Who says I’ve cheated? That creep Cliff Carmichael? He’s been on my case since I came to this school two years ago. You believe him?”

    Ronnie’s Chemistry teacher speaks up, opening a large folder containing Ronnie’s work. “Clifford Carmichael has nothing to do with the accusations against you, Raymond,” he explains, “We have all the evidence we need. This is your final exam in Chemistry, a test you took three weeks ago.” He holds it up for Hapgood to see. “Out of 100 questions, you answered 99 correctly,” he continues, “The last, an equation, you missed because of sloppy penmanship…an incorrectly placed function sign. No one else in the class scored as well as you.” Ronnie raises a hand in objection. “That’s it? I do well on a test, and automatically I’m a cheat?” he asks in frustration. “It doesn’t stop there,” Hapgood explains, “Your test scores in every other subject are well above the class average…in the upper one percentile, in fact.” The other teacher eyes him suspiciously. “Quite a remarkable achievement for a student whose grade average was in the middle C’s less than six months ago,” she says.

    Ronnie runs his hand up his forehead and through his hair. He looks up at the ceiling, searching for an explanation. “This is crazy. I do what I’m supposed to do - - get better at my schoolwork - - and you say that makes me a cheat,” he groans, “Somebody around here is nuts…but I know one thing. It isn’t me.” He turns to walk out of the office. “Ronald, wait…we have to talk about this,” his Chemistry teacher asks pleadingly. “Talk about what?” Ronnie says, turning back abruptly. “You’ve already made up your minds. What could I do to prove you wrong? Take the tests again? Yeah, right. Do what you want. I’m outta here,” he says angrily. He stomps out of the office, letting the door slam loudly behind him.

    He continues fuming as he walks to the hallway. Doreen and several of his friends see him emerge from the office and run after him. “Ronnie, what happened?” Doreen calls to him anxiously. Ronnie looks back at her but keeps walking on. “Ever see ‘Paths of Glory,’ Doreen? Suddenly I know how those soldiers felt when they were put in front of a firing squad,” Ronnie says dejectedly. He slows down, and his friends catch up to him. “C’mon, man, they’ve gotta give you a chance to clear yourself,” Jefferson suggests. Ronnie shakes his head somberly. “Forget it, Jefferson,” Ronnie sighs, “Hapgood’s got me figured for a cheat, and that’s all she wrote. No last-minute rim shot’s gonna win this game.”

    Cliff Carmichael has been standing near, listening with barely containable glee. “Hey, if it isn’t Superbrain himself,” he smugly torments, “What’s the secret of your success, Superbrain? Crib notes on your sleeve?” Ronnie shakes slightly in near-fury. “Carmichael, you lousy son of a…” WHAM! He grabs Cliff by the collar and pummels him with a punch to the face! Cliff collapses to the floor. “Great. I was hoping you’d pull something like this,” Cliff gloats, rubbing his jaw, adding, “Outside, Raymond. On the school roof. Lunch period.”

    Cliff gets up with the help of one of his friends. He starts down the hallway, pointing back at Ronnie. “Be there, or the whole school will know you’re a coward…as well as a cheat,” Cliff snorts. Ronnie tries to run after Cliff, put Jefferson smartly pulls him back. “What about right now, creep?” Ronnie yells at his nemesis, “What about right here?” Jefferson struggles to hold Ronnie down. “Ronnie, man, don’t go nuts!” he warns, “It’s the last day of school, and you’ve got enough trouble without buyin’ yourself some more. Cool down.” Ronnie breathes hard, sweat forming on his face. “Yeah, that’s terrific advice, Jefferson,” he grumbles, “My life’s falling apart and you want me to relax.” He turns quickly to his girlfriend. “Doreen, tell this guy what - - huh? Doreen?” Ronnie calls to her. Doreen storms down the hallway, not pausing to look back.

    Doreen breaks into a run and heads out onto the school grounds. Ronnie sprints in pursuit. He finally catches up to her when she is about to pass the flagpole. He reaches out to grab her arm as she runs. She stops abruptly, turns to face him, and yanks her arm out of his hand. “No!” she yells at him curtly. Ronnie steps back defensively. “No? No, what? What’s with you, Doreen?” he asks, a bit bewildered, “Of all the times to run out on me!” Doreen reaches out her hands, steadying them against Ronnie’s chest. “Won’t you ever stop? Ever since I’ve known you, you’ve had this chip on your shoulder! You’re always ready to get angry, always ready to explode!” she blurts tearfully, “I’m sick of it, Ronnie! I thought you’d changed. I hoped you’d grown up. But you haven’t.”

    She puts her hands down as tears stream down her face. “Cliff Carmichael is a jerk and I expect him to act like a jerk. But you should know better,” she continues, “Here you are facing one of the biggest problems of your life - - and you pick a fight with the school bully!” She pushes him hard. The unexpected shove knocks him back and he bumps his head on the flagpole. “What good is that going to do?” she yells at him, “How can that solve anything? I’m sick of it, Ronnie. I’m sick of you.” She wheels around and runs off, passing several students that have been looking on curiously at the spectacle. “Hey!” Ronnie yells after her, “You’re sick? I’m sick - - sick of people telling me how I should act, what I should feel! We’re through, Doreen!” He leans back on the flagpole, looking up at the sky in emotional exhaustion. “We’re through,” he says softly, letting the painful words sink in.

    Ronnie stands alone by the flagpole as students gradually make their way back into the building. In a few minutes, only Ronnie and a few pigeons flitting about the schoolwayd remain. Tears slowly slip down Ronnie’s cheek. Emotion wells up inside of him, becoming almost unbearable. “Professor!” he yells out in desperation. FZAAAAM!

    Two men joined by a bizarre nuclear accident: student and scientist, able to fuse their atomic structures into that of a single being…a Nuclear Man know to the world as…Firestorm!

    Ronnie flies them manically out over the Hudson River. “Ronald, I hope this is important,” Stein says, “I was on my way to a meeting with the Vandemeer University Board of Directors…in Pittsburgh. Where is the emergency?” Ronnie clenches his fists tightly in frustration as he flies aimlessly. “My life is the emergency, Professor!” he answers, “It’s falling apart - - Doreen’s quit on me - - I’m gonna get thrown out of school - - and I can’t wait till I hear what my Dad’s gonna say about…”

    Stein looks about as Ronnie unloads, seeing something amiss. “Just a moment, Ronald,” he interjects, “That day liner cruise ship in the Hudson River below…It’s about to collide with a speedboat from the West Side Marina! We have to…” Ronnie shakes his head dismissively as the boats draw dangerously close. “Forget it!” he yells, “I call you here for some sympathy and advice, and the first thing you do is find us work. What about me? When is somebody going to help me?”

    Stein tries to get him to focus on the emergency at hand. “Eh? My boy, at the moment your problems don’t matter,” he says directly, “If you want to be treated as an adult, you must act like one. People are in danger. Forget yourself - - help them!” Rational thought creeps back into Ronnie’s mind…for the moment. He plunges down towards the imperiled boats. “Damn it!” he grunts, aiming nuclear restructuring bursts at the hull of the cruise ship. FZAAAM! It opens like a tunnel. On the speedboat, the driver canoodles with his girlfriend, oblivious to the danger. “Hey, babe, if you like this, wait’ll ya see my Porsche,” he brags. “Oh, Rog, you’re so classy,” swoons the much younger girl. The boat passes underneath the liner via Ronnie’s makeshift passageway. “Ain’t money great?” Rog asks. “Mmm-hmm,” the girl coos, kissing him again as they emerge unharmed on the other side.

    “Talk about jerks - - that guy wins the Kewpie doll,” Ronnie groans, “If I hadn’t used my atomic restructuring power to cut a hole through that cruise ship…! Professor, what makes people so dumb?” Ronnie aims nuclear bursts to quickly repair the holes in the cruise ship. “People like that aren’t stupid, Ronald,” Stein answers, “They’re simply and supremely self-centered. In their eyes, the world exists to suit their pleasure. The desires of other people…the realities of life…just don’t matter to them. Take a good look, Ronald. A few moments ago, that’s how you were behaving.”

    Calm slowly returns to Ronnie’s mind as Professor Stein’s wise advice hits home. “Go ahead, shove my nose in it,” Ronnie sighs, “Have I really been that bad?” Ronnie looks down and sees the arrogant and oblivious boater, still cuddling with his young girlfriend. “Perhaps I exaggerated a bit,” Stein says. Ronnie eyes the boater, squinting his eyes a little in annoyance. FZZZZAAAMMM! The boater and his girlfriend look around in shock as their posh speedboat suddenly transforms into…an Acme brand giant yellow rubber duckie! “Terrific. I’ve got to think about this, Professor,” Ronnie says as he departs the area, “and we’ve got to talk about a test…”

    Not long after at a Bun ‘n’ Bun near Bradley High…Ronnie and Professor Stein sit at a table inside. The street outside is busy with people coming and going and newspaper salesmen barking out about the latest edition. A “Crisis on Infinite Earths” DC poster lines the wall just outside the restaurant window. “…you think that’s possible, Professor? It sounds weird,” Ronnie says. “Still, it’s the only explanation for your high scores, Ronald,” Stein suggests, “In our fused Firestorm state we share personalities. You control the Firestorm persona, but I provide information…scientific expertise…advice, and so forth. Suppose that ‘sharing’ doesn’t stop when we become the Nuclear Man?”

    Stein takes a sip of his cola from a bright yellow Bun ‘n’ Bun cup. “What if we retain aspects of the other’s personality after the fusion ends? Wouldn’t that explain your high test results?” Stein speculates. Behind Ronnie, a highly intoxicated man sits in the adjacent booth, looking disheveled and unwashed from too many days and nights of rough living on the mean city streets. A small swarm of flies orbits around his smelly clothes. Ronnie slaps his head in a ‘Eureka’ moment. “That’s it! I’ve got part of your mind! Why didn’t I think of that before, Professor?” Ronnie asks, happily relieved. He stands up next to the table.

    “Perhaps because the implications are somewhat…unsettling,” Stein replies, “This must work both ways, Ronald. You have part of me, and I…I must have part of you. But I don’t feel any different.” Ronnie nods as the street creature behind him eyes their leftovers on the table. “Neither do I, Professor,” Ronnie answers, “But so what? This is great.” Stein gets up to join him, adjusting his tie a little. They begin to walk away as the inebriated man snatches up and chomps Ronnie’s burger happily.

    “I can’t see that it solves your present difficulty, my boy,” Stein says as they go, “After all, you can hardly tell your Principal that you’re innocent of cheating because you share aspects of my personality.” They walk out of the Bun ‘n’ Bun to the busy sidewalk. “Maybe not, but now that I understand what’s happened, I’ve got an idea how to prove I didn’t cheat,” Ronnie replies, asking, “If it works, can you stick around till tomorrow, for my graduation?” Stein nods. “I’d already planned to be here, Ronald,” he explains, “I look forward to meeting your father.” Ronnie thinks quickly. “Maybe you can come to dinner tonight. He wants me to meet someone he works with at the Daily Express. You could - - oh, no!” he exclaims. “What is it, Ronnie?” Stein asks worriedly. “Carmichael!” Ronnie yells as he sprints down the block, “I said I’d meet him on the school roof during lunch period - - and guess what time it is now?” Stein sighs as he watches Ronnie go. “I’ll see you tonight, Ronald,” he calls, “Good luck.”

    Bradley High… “What did I tell you? 12:45 and Raymond’s a no-show,” Cliff gloats to his friends, “Our brainless wonder is a gutless wonder, too.” Thump-thump-thump-thump! Jefferson rhythmically dribbles a basketball on the school rooftop. “If the man said he’d be here, he’ll be here, Cliff,” Jefferson answers. Cliff steps toe-to-toe with Jefferson, looking up at him. “Says the one and only member of the Ronnie Raymond Fan Club,” Cliff sneers, asking, “Why do you back him up, Jefferson? Raymond’s a loser. He always has been, always will be.” Thump! Jefferson lets the basketball fall from his hand and it rolls away. “He’s my friend, Cliff. Maybe since you don’t have any friends, that’s something you can’t understand,” Jefferson snips back at him.

    “Thanks, Jefferson. Hi, Cliff,” Ronnie unexpectedly calls out to the group, surprising Cliff. Ronnie emerges out onto the rooftop from the access stairway. “Sorry I’m late,” Ronnie explains. Cliff turns to face him. “You’ll be sorrier you showed up, Raymond,” Cliff snarls, “This is my last chance to take you apart…and I’m going to enjoy it.” Cliff unbuttons his shirt and strips it off. “Keep it clean, Cliff. Mess with him, you mess with the team,” Jefferson warns. “Relax, Jefferson. Ronnie can take care of himself. Can’t you, Ronnie?” Cliff barks.

    “That’s right, Cliff,” Ronnie answers. The two step close to each other. Cliff has also removed his glasses. “’That’s right, Cliff,’” Cliff parrots through angrily clenched teeth, hissing, “Do you know why I hate your guts?” Ronnie just shrugs. “Tell you the truth, I haven’t a clue,” Ronnie answers. Cliff reaches out and grabs a fistful of Ronnie’s shirt. “Because you have it so easy. Not like me,” Cliff grumbles, “Back in grammar school, the kids called me ‘Four-Eyes.’ So I called them names, too. I got real good at it. They didn’t like it, so they’d hit me. I hit back. But there were always more of them than there were of me. You learn how to fight pretty fast when you get beat up all the time.” Cliff throws a punch that Ronnie doesn’t even try to defend. It lands hard, forcing Ronnie to stumble back and fall against the parapet wall.

    “But you - - everyone likes you. You’re good-looking. You’re on the school basketball team. You’ve got the prettiest girl in school. You’re a lousy prince,” Cliff says, continuing his angry diatribe. “Everything I’d kill for, you’ve got. And what do you do with it?” Cliff asks, glowering over Ronnie and shaking his fist, “You throw it away! You stupid, stupid…jerk!” WHAM! Cliff unleashes a nasty punch across Ronnie’s jaw. He lowers his face an inch away from Ronnie’s. “What’re you waiting for? Come on! Fight back! Hit me! Do it!” Cliff yells. He yanks on Ronnie’s shirt and lift him up, holding him in front of him. Ronnie gazes back, nose bloodied, looking a bit dazed. “And prove what, Cliff? You’re right. I’m a jerk,” Ronnie groans, “Do what you want, but I’m not going to fight you. Not over this. Not anymore.” Cliff draws back for a finishing blow. “Aahhhhhh…” he growls. He sweeps his fist in front of Ronnie’s face but does not strike him. “Who needs it?” Cliff asks in frustration, bending to retrieve his shirt and glasses, “It’s a big world and after tomorrow, I’ll never have to see you again, if I live right.” He turns and stomps off down the access stairway.

    Doreen has been leaning in the stairway, watching the beat down. “Hi,” she says, walking over to Ronnie. “Hi, I’m glad you came. Not much of a fight, was it?” Ronnie asks. He stands a bit wobbly, nose bleeding and a big bruise growing on his left cheekbone. Doreen reaches her arms around him. “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” she says to Ronnie’s surprise. “I’m so sorry about the things I said…” she continues. Ronnie wraps his arms around her and turns to look at the group of his friends that have congregated around him. “Uh…say, guys…could you, like, turn around…?” Ronnie asks them with a wink. They get the message and quickly divert their attention away as Ronnie and Doreen hug tightly and kiss.

    Principal Wallace Hapgood’s office, a discreet interval later… “…this suggestion of yours is highly irregular, Ronald, but under the circumstances, I suppose it’s justified,” Principal Hapgood says. Ronnie sits in front of Hapgood’s desk. His Chemistry teacher leans against the desk in front of him. Principal Hapgood stands, arms folded, studying Ronnie closely. “You’ve asked for a chance to prove that you’re not a cheat - - by taking an impromptu verbal test,” Hapgood reveals, “This verbal test will cover course material not covered in your final exam. Frankly, I wonder why you want to put yourself through this…” Ronnie grips the arms of his chair tightly. “It’s simple, sir, I know what I am,” Ronnie answers, “and after this, you’ll know, too. I’m no cheat.” Ronnie’s cheeks, nose, and jaw still sting from the bruises Cliff pounded onto them. “But what happens if the Professor’s idea is wrong?” Ronnie thinks worriedly, “What if I don’t remember anything? Then it’s all over…But if I don’t try, it’s over anyway. What have I got to lose?”

    Ronnie’s Chemistry teacher shuffles some papers from the folder he is carrying. He looks at Ronnie with a slight frown of mistrust. “All right,” he announces, “Let’s get this finished. First question…Define ‘decomposition voltage.’” Ronnie answers quickly, “The smallest voltage required to decompose an electrolyte by electrolysis, using platinum or other electrodes.” The teacher sputters in surprise, “Eh? And with some electrodes and electrolytes, the voltage required is…” Ronnie quickly interrupts with the answer. “…zero volts. The decomposition voltage is necessary to overcome the effects of polarization and overvoltage,” he answers with a slight smile, asking, “…Next?”

    Doreen and Jefferson wait nervously for Ronnie in the Principal’s outer office. “…I don’t know, Jefferson. He’s been in there three hours. You think he’s okay?” Doreen asks anxiously. “We haven’t seen any paramedics go in, right?” Jefferson replies thoughtfully, adding, “No news is good news. Ah, heck. Maybe I should break in the door.” Voices from the inner office are heard. Doreen spins her head to look in their direction.

    “It’s phenomenal, Hapgood. Phenomenal,” Ronnie’s Chemistry teacher gushes, “In all my twenty years as a teacher, this has never happened to me…Never.” Hapgood rubs a comforting hand over the teacher’s shoulder. The teacher wipes his sweaty brow. “The boy’s a natural…He knows things about Chemistry even I don’t know,” he continues in amazement, “How could I have been so wrong? Why didn’t I spot such potential? How?...Where?” Hapgood tries to reassure his shocked colleague. “Get a good night’s sleep, Irv. You need it,” Hapgood suggests, “I’ll pass the word to the rest of his teachers.”

    Ronnie walks slowly from Hapgood’s office listening. He joins Jefferson and Doreen. “Mr. Hapgood, what’s the story? Did our man pass?” Jefferson asks. Doreen trembles nervously, asking, “Ronnie - - are you - - is he…?” Hapgood smiles. “Three very long hours ago, I couldn’t have said this,” he smiles, reaching for Ronnie’s hand, “Congratulations, Ronald. I’ll see you at the ceremony tomorrow. Go home.” They shake hands warmly. “Aw right, Raymond!” Jefferson cheers. Doreen grins and yells, “Wee-hooo!”

    Dusk. The end of a long day. Firestorm lies lazily on a bed of clouds floating over Manhattan. “From what you tell me, Ronald, it must have taken a good deal of courage to do what you did today,” Stein observes. “Sure I was scared - - but once I heard the questions, I knew I had the answers. The rest was a cinch,” Ronnie explains. Stein has a different challenge in mind. “I wasn’t referring to your examination in Principal Hapgood’s office, my boy…” Stein hints. Ronnie sits up, looking down at the busy streets below through a hole in the cloud. “You mean that stuff with Cliff? Not fighting back?” Ronnie asks, adding, “Funny thing, Professor…Now that you mention it…All the time I stood there, listening to Cliff shout at me, waiting for him to hit me, knowing I was just going to stand there and take it…my heart never once stopped pounding like a jackhammer. All I wanted to do was fight or run. But if I fought, I’d be a jerk; if I ran, I’d be a coward. Just staying there like that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” Stein smiles warmly, answering, “I know. I’m proud of you.” Ronnie leaps from the cloud and launches into speeding flight. “Nuts,” he replies, “We’ll be late for dinner.”

    Ronnie flies down into the busy Manhattan neighborhood where his father works. “Here it is, the Daily Express Building. Dad said to meet him in the lobby,” Ronnie explains, “I’ll just swoop around in front to see if he’s there yet…” A woman walking along the sidewalk in front of the Daily Express sees him. She waves out to attract his attention. “You, Firestorm!” Felicity Smoak yells, “Get down here!” Ronnie glides in to a landing next to her. “Did you call me? Do I know you? There’s something familiar,” he says as she stomps towards him. “Hold it right there. Don’t move,” she orders him, “I’ve been looking for you for weeks.” She rummages in her purse. “Where is that thing?” she mutters. “Smoak…Yeah, that’s right. You’re Felicity Smoak. We met a couple of times a few months ago…uh-oh,” Ronnie says snapping his fingers, “Now I remember. You had a computer software company, and I accidentally, uh…”

    Felicity then pulls out a large document from her purse. “Here it is…This is for you,” she snarls as she thrusts the document into Ronnie’s hand. She quickly turns and storms off toward the entrance. Ronnie props his foot up on a fire hydrant as curious bystanders look on. He scans the document, trying to understand what it means. “A summons? I’m being sued…” he asks dejectedly. From the lobby entrance Felicity points at him angrily. “Because of your malicious misuse of super powers resulting in the total destruction of my computer software business inventory,” she yells to him, “I’m suing you for one million dollars. See you in court, creep.” Ronnie waves his hand to her defensively. “Hey! You can’t do this!” he pleads. Felicity simply turns in a huff and disappears into the Daily Express building without looking back.

    Ronnie stands dumbfounded, arms extended in confusion. “I mean…Can she?” he asks. Stein thinks for a moment. “I have a feeling we’ll soon find out,” he replies, “My boy, I suggest we find a good lawyer.” Ronnie leaps into the air, quickly leaving the street far below. “In the meantime, I think we have a dinner engagement,” Stein reminds him, “Someone your father wanted you to meet…” Ronnie quickly remembers. “Omigosh! We’ve gotta hurry!” he exclaims.

    Moments later… “There’s Dad now,” Ronnie says, calling out, “Hey, Dad!” Ed Raymond turns to look over his shoulder. He has been hugging his as yet un-introduced lady friend. Professor Stein follows close behind Ronnie. Ed turns and takes a step towards them. “Ronnie…We were beginning to think you’d forgotten us,” Ed says, noticing Stein, “This must be the Professor from Vandemeer University you’ve been telling me about…” Stein walks up and extends his hand out to Ed. “Martin Stein, Mr. Raymond,” he introduces as they shake hands, “You’ve got a bright son. He’ll make a fine student at Vandemeer.” Ed smiles and nods, appreciative of Stein’s kind compliment. “I know he will,” Ed replies, “This is a special night for me, and not only because my boy’s graduating tomorrow.”

    Ed turns to his companion. She turns around to face them. A look of shock flashes across Ronnie and Stein’s face as they see her. “Ronnie, I wanted you to be the first to know. Your old man’s getting married again,” he says happily, “Darling, this is my boy, Ronald. Ronald, this is my fiancée…Felicity Smoak.” Stein suddenly wobbles in his shoes, stepping back to keep his balance by leaning on the wall. Felicity walks to Ronnie and extends her hand. “Felicity became legal counsel to the Daily Express a few months ago, after her own business collapsed,” Ed explains, “We’ve been seeing each other…and…well…” Ronnie sheepishly shakes her hand, a quizzical expression glued to his face. “That’s enough, Ed. Can’t you see your boy’s stunned?” Felicity says planting a kiss on his cheek, “Ronnie, I’m so happy to meet you. I hope you and I are going to be good friends.”

    A huge banner announces ‘Good Luck Class of ‘85’ as the graduating class of Bradley High eagerly listens to Principal Hapgood’s commencement speech. Doreen glances at Ronnie seated next to her. He looks dazed and glassy-eyed. “…good, good friends, no matter where the years ahead may take you,” Hapgood tells the senior class, “For the friends you’ve made here in high school, are the friends who will remain closest to you in life. And so we say farewell, not goodbye…for a part of us will always remain here at Bradley High.” He smiles warmly and extends a thumbs-up high. “Class dismissed,” he announces happily. The students leap and cheer, flinging their graduation caps in the air. YAAAAAAAAHHH!!!

    Doreen elbows Ronnie. “Wake up! It’s over. We’re free!” she smiles at him. Ronnie snaps out of his daydream. “Huh…what? Oh…I guess I missed it,” he replies, looking around at his classmates’ frenzied celebration. He and Doreen get up and walk along with the crowd of jubilant students. “You missed it? How could you miss it?” Doreen asks. “Uh, I must’ve had a lot on my mind,” Ronnie explains, asking, “Doreen, could we be alone together this afternoon for an hour or two, before the parties start? I need some quiet time…just the two of us.” Doreen sees her parents waiting just ahead. “Sure. Let me say hi to my folks, then I’ll meet you outside, okay?” she agrees. “Great,” Ronnie says, waving as she walks off.

    A hand taps Ronnie’s shoulder. “Congratulations, Ronald,” Professor Stein says proudly. Ronnie turns to him and they shake hands. “See you next month at Vandemeer, for the summer session?” Stein asks. “If I live that long. Life never settles down, does it?” Ronnie answers. Stein shakes his head and sighs. “No, my boy, it never does,” he agrees. Ed Raymond walks over to join them. “I was just talking to your classmate, Ronald, that boy Carmichael,” Ed tells him, “Sounds like you’ll have a friend at Vandemeer.” Ronnie nods and smiles. “Uh-huh…Doreen…She’s been accepted by the Drama Department there.” Ed shakes his head. “Besides your girlfriend, Ronald,” Ed explains, “Cliff Carmichael told me he’s been accepted to Vandemeer, too.” Ronnie scowls with aggravation, groaning, “No.”

    Doreen walks back and grabs him by the arm. She leads him away, asking, “Anything wrong, handsome?” Ronnie smiles, answering, “Nope. It’s perfect. Absolutely perfect.” He wraps his arm around her as they walk to join their class celebration. “There’s just one thing I’ve got to say…” Ronnie continues, “YAAAAAHA, WORLD! LET’S PARTY!”



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