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|Fun and Games, And "Peachy-Keen" (standard:fantasy, 4150 words)|
|Author: G.H. Hadden||Added: May 12 2005||Views/Reads: 2029/1533||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Craig is a sporty kid with a need to improve his grades. Shortly, he will befriend Dillon, a smart but strange introvert who’s eyes fill them all with a nameless fear. Can Craig overcome his apathy and prejudice—or is he a mere pawn in a greater play?|
Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story millennium. He would always be reading a book. Now a few of the hangers-on join Dave and Cass in the corner. They deliberately hem the outsider in, sitting on either side of him. If he should have his back to the wall that particular day, well then, they just sit on the table in front of him and to one side. They always talk loud to each other, pretending he isn't there. Cass especially goes out of his way to make hurtful comments and occasionally nudge Dillon. Their nickname for him is Powder (from a movie they all once saw). Their game is to see if one of them can't rattle him, maybe make the albino spill his drink (cold milk in a thermos instead of coke in a can), or make the reading of his book unpleasant at best—if next to impossible. Of course, Dillon ultimately has no choice but to move. He'll ignore them for a bit, then pack up his lunch and book—and naturally have to take a parting shot to the arm from Dave without complaint before retiring to an unpopulated spot outside on the grass meadow at the edge of the schoolyard. There he will have peace until the others get bored again, seeking him out for a little more fun. Up till now Craig had watched the daily harassment with a kind of clinical detachment. It wasn't happening to him, so it was mostly out of curiosity that he watched the daily scene play itself out in the corner. When it really started to bother him was the first time he saw Dillon walk into class with what looked like a split lip; then seeing Dave and Cass high-fiving each other as they walked in with his book, gleefully tearing out the pages to make spit ball with. The rest of that class (when Mrs. Flaggerty's head was turned, and things were no longer "peachy-keen" at all) they blew spitballs at him, pinging him in the neck and the head and in his hair. He never so much as winced. That was fun and games, but the fact that they had stolen and destroyed his book made Craig mad. It was like they had somehow crossed the line of decency—gone from a little harmless horseplay to a daily regimen of mistreatment and beatings. In time, Craig's assumption proved to be right, because most of the time he saw the kid on the playground now he was being ganged-up on by four or five other kids, lead by none other than Davey Bigballs himself. It gnawed at him: slowly building to a feeling of sickness every tine he entered the lunchroom with his friends and saw Dillon outnumbered, facing them down alone. Nope, things were definitely not "peachy-keen", not for Dillon or Craig— no matter how much Mrs. Flaggerty liked to think so. In fact, it was getting to the point that Craig would make a conscious effort not to glance in the direction of the albino boy—but, the more he avoided it, the more he saw it going on. The more he saw it, the more he hated it, and the madder he got. And still the boy would not allow them to break him. It occurred to Craig that Dillon could have been a wuss; going to a teacher; or better still, to Principal Georing—and then those ass-clowns would all get a week's vacation and a good ass-tanning from their dads, no doubt! But he didn't. The one plain truth about the playground culture he seemed to get is that if you got others to fight your battles for you, you're a pussy. So he kept his dignity and took the beatings when he had to. He fought back too—sometimes, but unlike in that movie Craig saw a long time ago on TV, no old Japanese kung-fu master was going to show up and teach this Karate Kid to kick ass. A one-on-one fight is fair, Craig reflected, but five to one—with three or four of them holding your arms behind your back as Dave called you a circus freak and slapped your face? Nope, that was just too much to bear! It was on a Monday that things finally came to a head. That morning had been a killer. Once again Craig was struggling to keep up with the pass line on another math test. Fifty-five was the red mark in the circle this time (and wasn't that just "peachy-keen"), an F-plus he supposed. But unlike some of the jerk-offs who seemed to take pride in failing; as if the lowest mark was their stated purpose and goal; Craig had really studied for this one. All those confusing fractions! How was three-quarters bigger than twenty-one thirty-seconds? And all those brackets! Which operation came first? At this point he didn't know whether the square bracket or the round bracket or the fancy wavy one took precedence; or even how any of them could be expected to work out these long-ass problems without a calculator. Dillon, on the other hand, didn't just know the times tables to twelve times twelve; but to fifteen times fifteen—instantly—just like that; in his head! When he came up to the board to write out a problem, he worked it out with nothing more than graceful hesitation, stopping only to do a quick mental calculation. Meanwhile, the other kid unlucky enough to be working out another problem beside him would be staring at the numbers as if all the sharp 4's would suddenly spring to life in a deadly knife attack. Craig's own experience included writing out even the simplest calculations, so that when he finished, the once clean whiteboard would be streaked with marker wipes and his hands would have ink smears on them. It took him almost twice as long as Dillon to finish a problem, and half the time a silly little multiplication error or fractional conversion would kill it for him. Dillon would be his savior: if, of course, he could just keep him from being Dave's bitch. It would be a good way to break the ice too—for sure, he thought. School had been in session now for almost six weeks, and the two of them had never said so much as boo to each other. It was even possible that Dillon might not even know who he was. So it came as no surprise at all that the wolves were at it again—gathering in their corner, stalking their prey as they always did. Dillon was always there. He refused to give in: not one inch! Not ever giving them the satisfaction of driving him from his spot in the corner, let alone the lunchroom entirely. "You guys see that?" Craig said first to Jimmy on his left, and then to Nate on his right, "Every day those assholes are on him. Every fucking day!" "So?" Jimmy mused, taking a bite of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, looking only mildly interested. What else is new? Davey's just being his usual asshole self and the weirdo is being his usual weird self; so what of it?" "I'm not letting it go—that's what of it." Craig said. "I'm kickin' Davey's ass or die trying this afternoon. I'm sick of it. Just sick and tired an' full of them all." "Forget it." Nate said clapping Craig's back, "They're just playin' with him; besides, they always let him go after a while. And anyways he's tough. I bet they don't even bother him much." "Well if you don't want to help, the least you could do is come and watch me get my clock cleaned then." His face showed them both he meant business, and that was enough to get his troops in line for the coming battle. It had always been that way with them; they looked out for one another; and a shot against one of them had meant a shot against all three musketeers. "When?" Jimmy asked. He could always be counted on to mix things up— because he was just that kind of kid; he never shied away from a cause once he had one. That's why he's captain of the Junior Dragons and already a star with the ladies, and Craig is merely a backup goalie with ambition. Nate was more pensive: always using his head rather than just going for broke with his fists. He was smaller than both Craig and Jimmy, and thus skillful at negotiations. With both the muscle and the brains behind him, Craig thought he might not even have to face Dave at all. "Not now." Craig said, "After. They'll be on him like clockwork after lunch in the field. There. You guys don't see it always I guess—but I do. And I'm telling you right now; those jackals deserve a black eye for it." "Jackals", he discovered, was an even better ("peachy-keen") way to describe the behavior of those animals. Low, backstabbing, and despicable creatures— they take advantage of others apathy, smug in their own numerical superiority. Alone, not even Davey would have the balls to bother Dillon. Most likely, the albino was the one boy he truly feared. They watched a little more intently now as everything happened as if on schedule. Dillon read; the pack swarmed him; they nudged and teased and had their fun at his expense. And as always, Dillon got up to leave after about ten or fifteen minutes of taunting, underscoring the point that he chose to make better use of a warm fall day than to stay and hold his ground. At no time did it ever look like a retreat. He shoved past them; going on about his business as if they were the ones that didn't exist—and he didn't even acknowledge the hard shot Davey gave him to the back this time. "See." Nate was saying—he's got everything under control. They're nothing to him." "They're real polite here." Craig said between chews of warm beef and cheese burrito, "Just you wait though. Give 'em another half hour and they'll be all over him again. Then you'll see the gloves come off, and the real hunting begin." Nate said nothing more on the subject, but he was far from convinced this was a worthwhile enterprise. Ever the rationalist, he was weighing the odds of success versus the merit of the risk, even while they all went back to the old standby topics of conversation. Craig knew his friends well enough though, and was confident that when they saw the true nature of the crime, they too would be shocked into action. That shock was beyond even what Craig had been prepared for when they came across the backfield to take care of business. What he saw was beyond any kind of brutality he ever thought Davey's crew were capable of. There were six of them now, with Tabitha Lynch the latest to join. That bitch Tabby (so nicknamed because of her cat like propensity to mix it up with the other girls) dressed like a cheep ho and had the legendary potty mouth to match. The three had crept up soundlessly, hunting prey themselves, meaning to shock Dave's gang into flight—possibly avoiding a bad confrontation altogher. The shock was all theirs. Completely oblivious to the three onlookers, Kyle, Charlie, Cass and Aden were holding the trapped albino against the chain link fence, all four of them roaring with laughter as Dillon struggled in vain to escape. His eyes were scrunched up tightly as he took shot after shot to the stomach and chest from Davey. "Open your eyes!" he kept saying, doubling Dillon over again with a kick to the groin, and now he's trying to pry open the albino's eyes! He's actually digging with his nails into the boy's face, slapping him with sharp, broad smacks across his white cheeks with their strangely rosy handprints. Dillon's lip is split, and dark crimson blood is dripping from his nose. His blonde-white hair, usually combed to a neat thick part is all askew, flying this way and that as he struggled. Still, he's holding fast, and will never do what they want. "Show me those sexy-fuck eyes!" Tabby cackled with laughter, her slim belly exposed in her slutty biker jacket, off-white halter-top and tight black jean shorts. She is not yet willing to concede the summer, but she looks positively thrilled to be sinking her claws into his cheeks and drawing blood from them in long deep scratches. "Come on sugar, let's see them turn pink to hazel! Let's see it!" Jimmy got mad instantly, his eyes flashing over with carnal hatred. His voice startled all of them—especially Craig, who was so outraged that not a single sound came from his mouth when his jaw dropped to scream utter disgust. Nate too reacted with horror, not able to make any noise except a sickly rasp of air that sounded like a cougar's hiss. "MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!" Dave had only time enough to turn his head, and then Jimmy was all over him, slamming into the bigger boy with enough force to send them both tumbling to the ground in a tussle of fists to the stomach and face. Leaves stuck to the their jeans and shirts and in Dave's short crew cut bristles like Velcro. Of course, Jimmy was smaller, and could not possibly hope to out wrestle Davey, but Nate's quick decision to stamp so firmly on Dave's balls made the fight a little more fair. After that it was Tabby and Nate going at it, with claws to the face and Nate giving her a shot to the belly before laying down a well-deserved bitch-slap of his own on her. Cass went almost as pale as Dillon. He stared with bewilderment, first at Jimmy and Davey rolling around on the grass, then Nate and Tabby shoving each other back and fourth in a strange dance of combat, both screaming obscenities at each other. Dillon opened his eyes, and they were more red than pink now, with maybe a hint of tears around the edges, but he was definitely not crying. He struggled against them harder than ever, screaming at the top of his lungs "LET ME GO!" It was the first he had ever herd Dillon yell. Craig supposed that he only did so now because this time it wouldn't be begging for mercy or showing any kind of weakness. Now he was ordering them to let him go from a position of strength and honor, and it was a command that could now be enforced. "Come on." Kyle enticed. His smile had not faded, nor had his confidence wavered in the least. He was now the leader, stepping into the breach to take over while Jimmy and Dave were duking it out on the grass. They still had Craig outnumbered four to one—or maybe four to two was more accurate. In any case Davey would soon have the upper hand on Jimmy and they would still win the rumble. He wished Nate weren't so distracted with Tabby. She meant nothing to the outcome of the fight, but he missed his friend's ability to reason with even the most thickheaded moron. "Just make you're move Craigy-Waigy, come get your boyfriend!" Craig swallowed a lump of saliva that tasted like tin, suddenly feeling the urge to take a shit come on. For a split second he didn't know what to do, whether to just smash that cocky grin off of Kyle's face and let things take their course or to try Nate's way of dealing with such long odds. In the end, the dual glimmer of desperation and hope in those albino pink-red eyes gave him inspiration in a heartbeat. "I'll tell." He said, stepping forward with his fists cocked and ready to go for plan B, "I'll go to Georing and tell him how Davey and Kyle and Tabby and Charlie and Aden and YOU, especially, Cass, were trying to claw out his eyes!" He pointed an accusing finger at the white boy with the slicked back sandy brown hair, over greased so that it clung to the curved outline of his skull as if painted on. "Let him go now and we'll drop the whole thing." Craig said, "Or you can fight us over and over and over and over. Either way, he's one of us now! So I'll give you five seconds to think it over and then I'll just fuck you up like I should 've done long ago. And Georing will know the truth!" Five seconds was too long to wait. He sprang onto Kyle, who only had a single arm free for defense, with the other tightly wrapped around Dillon's neck in a headlock. A sharp right to the cheek wiped that leering grin off his face in a hurry, sending home the message to Cass that words would be followed by actions. Incensed, Kyle released his grip on Dillon to take on Craig. Dillon made it no easier for the other three kids to keep him restrained, lest he break free and do a number on Davey all by himself. They could feel the adrenaline flow through his tense muscles and shivering body. He squirmed ever more fiercely, and Cass saw the hopelessness of it all when the other children over at the monkey bars and the baseball diamond started to migrate over to watch amidst the telltale cries of "Fight! Fight! Fight!" In time, one of the lunchroom monitors caught on when even the steady flow of the daily road hockey game broke up. They were streaming into the backfield from every direction in little groups of threes and fours and fives, girls and boys alike, all eager to see a little action before the teachers came and spoiled the fun for all. There was no clear winner. It had taken four of the strongest male teachers to finally separate them all and march them off to detention like prisoners of war. All of them together, equally condemned, bloodied and bruised. Georing didn't want to hear the truth, or perhaps he already knew and wanted nothing more than to sweep things under the rug. Detention was his answer for everything. Craig supposed it was a convenient way to let the parents deal with the discipline problems that sugar overdose was apt to bring on everyday from noon till one. In the days to come Dillon and Craig would first become study partners, and then later good friends. In time he would go out of his way to say hi to Craig and his friends in the front of the lunchroom, even if he was too shy to carry on any kind of real conversation with them. He always went to his solitary corner in the back, set up his lunch and quietly read. Davey and Cass and the others never bothered with him again. In fact, they avoided him like the plague. However, for Craig, who was always brought up to judge a person by their actions, and not the color of their skin—it is distressing to think how uncomfortable the boy's eyes really make him feel. Had he really seen them change? Was Tabatha right? Somehow, in that twilight time of rest just before the mind settles into sleep are the unsettling seeds of nightmares sown. It is now that he sees those red albino eyes flickering, and there is that lingering doubt that maybe Dave's impulse is right. It is an innate feeling that will not go away; that maybe Dillon has somehow hypnotized them to come to his rescue. Perhaps his mind called out to Craig just as a dog whistle... "No." he finally decides, defying his own instinct with logic as he draws the covers in a tight cocoon and turns over to try to get some sleep. He's not a Chameleon—Not a monster; he's just a boy. He's the boy who'll save me from a bad rerun of grade six. Tweet
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