THE TIME SURFERS
By T.B. Charles
When the black cat crossed in front of me on my way to school last Monday, that should have been the first clue. I should have turned around on the spot and went right back to bed for like a year.
But it was too late. The wheels of time were set it motion, and it only got worse from that point. Cosmically worse.
Seriously, forget about everything you’ve heard about someone having a bad day. I mean, compared to being tossed inside a Particle Shredder by someone who’s determined to destroy you atom by atom, then I’d say you had a pretty good day even if you lost your house keys down the largest sinkhole on the planet, got splattered with Stegosaurus manure, and dropped your phone into a gallon of embalming fluid. My friend, Ella, disagrees because she’s the one who experienced those three epically disastrous (her description) things. Well, I guess it’s all relative as Mr. Einstein would say.
Oh, and one more minor detail. I was told it was up to me to save humanity. Yep, the fate of mankind was resting squarely on my shoulders. Got that? I mean, I sweat buckets over an algebra test, and now I'm being told I have to save everyone on the planet.
No big deal, right?
So here I am, just some kid with braces and bad skin trying to get through the chaos of middle school, and now I have this problem thrown at me. What can I do? I don’t even have my driver’s license yet, and now it’s up to me save the whole world.. I mess up, and you’re not around to read this little tale. Just a typical week for a kid from Woodside Creek.
Now, I shrugged off the black cat’s appearance by telling myself it was just the Peterson’s cat who’s a notorious neighborhood troublemaker. How many times has Sheeba woken me up with her caterwaul? You know the sound, that awful high-pitched meow where you swear it’s some baby crying. Then Sheeba would scratch at my window at night, begging to come inside. The goof would climb the Dogwood tree next to our house, and once on our roof, she’d claw at my window. I would let the goof in where she would weave in between my legs and purr. Why me? I don’t even really like cats. But Sheeba probably saved my life, so I guess I’ll make an exception.
That morning the sky was turning dark and the winds were picking up, bending limbs and scattering Charlotte Kemp’s homework across the street. As Bennie rushed to gather her papers, a big gust blew his Swamp Frogs baseball cap off his head and into oncoming traffic. At that moment, a black pick-up with a skull and crossbones stenciled on the back windshield flattened his hat into near oblivion. Bennie stared at it for a few minutes, kind of like he was saying good-bye to an old friend before wandering onto the road to retrieve it. He quickly had to dash back to the curb as another truck barreled down the road, honking furiously at Bennie as he sped by. The hat was now it tatters.
I’ve been best friends with Bennie since first grade. Trouble always seems to find Bennie. Like the time he brought in his ant farm to school. It broke inside his locker, infesting the entire row of lockers in front of Mrs. Thursby’s room. They had to fumigate the whole place since Bennie’s ant farm didn’t contain your ordinary Carpenter ant; no, his farm was filled with fire ants which caused a major incident as described by Principal Easterly in the memo he sent home to parents. We didn’t have school for two days. Bennie had detention for a month.
He also knocked over the statue of the city’s founder in the town square. That nearly caused an international incident. The founder, Emile Hanzopeck, had emigrated from Torvovia with like two cents in his pocket and opened a trading post along Woodside Creek. The town is known officially as Woodside Creek, but most people now just shorten it to Woodside.
I think it was originally erected in 1903, but it had fallen into disrepair. It had become a favorite hangout for some local ravens, and now it looked old Emile had slathered a massive amount of sunscreen on his nose. His elbow was also chipped, and his leg was missing a kneecap.
Now, some bigwigs from his birthplace were going to be on hand for the new unveiling. They had been renovating it for like a year, and were set to have a big bicentennial ceremony marking the occasion with the Woodside High School band and everything.
The work on the statue was still underway when the dignitaries arrived, and Mayor Blethem was like apoplectic. At least, that’s how Ella described it. They assured him it would be done in time for the ceremony, but he was still pacing around the site, asking a zillion questions of the work crew.
"Merely touch-ups," replied Mr. Hanson, the project leader.
The night before the unveiling, Bennie climbed the scaffolding surrounding the statue because he wanted to put antlers on Emile’s head. Our middle school football team was the Woodisde Bucks, and Bennie thought it would be cool to see ol’ Emile wearing the antler hat.
As he was about to place the antlers on Emile’s head, he slipped, his foot crashing into one of Emile’s hands which was holding a beaver pelt. That hand broke off and hit one of those dignitaries in the foot. He had been out for a late-night stroll and decided to take an early peek at Emile. Well, once it struck his toes, he howled so loud it nearly woke the whole town.
A picture of him hopping and yelping, actually made the front page of the paper. And there was Bennie in the background, dangling from Emile’s head.
Bennie was threatened with jail time over the prank, but only had to make restitution. That meant he had to pay for the damage. So Bennie had to work after school for the next year at Harlow’s Diner where he scrubbed pots and pans for three hours, five days a week. Guys from school would come by Harlow’s just to ask Bennie if he needed a hand, laughing as they held up the newspaper photo.
Another time he was hunting for salamanders along Woodside Creek and spotted a Marbled salamander by the bank. He slipped and fell into the fast-moving water which had risen after the recent rains. An emergency crew had to drag him out. Television stations got it all on film. A soaked, but smiling, Bennie made the six o’clock news. His mishap included a cameo appearance by one of the salamanders he caught. It wriggled free from his pocket and jumped onto the back of the on-scene reporter who began freaking out. Her jerky attempt of ridding herself of the reptile prompted some kids to imitate her “Salamander Shuffle." in class. Bennie, the reporter, and the salamander were famous. However, Bennie was also grounded again…for life.
I could go on for days talking about Bennie, but I better get back to the story.
It’s my birthday next month and I’m going to be fourteen. Supposedly there’s going to be a surprise party for me, but when you have a little sister like Ryan, things tend to get blurted out, forcing me to fake surprise on Saturday. No big deal. Now, just between you and me, I tend to hunt for Christmas gifts early, checking every conceivable hiding spot inside the house. Once I find a stash, I’ll carefully look through the bag, my fingers as delicate as a safecracker’s. But lately, my Aunt Margaret has been wrapping everything before she hides them. I guess Ryan blurted that out, too.
However, I did spot the fresh cherries, and I knew Aunt Margaret was going to bake a cherry pie for my birthday. I love cherry pie. In fact, I love most pies: pumpkin, lemon merengue, apple, blueberry, pecan, just to name a few. But that mincemeat pie you can keep.
I never understood why cake became the default birthday dessert. Pies are so much better. Seriously, they look way cooler with birthday candles than old, tired, boxy cakes. I even submitted an article to the school paper arguing the pro pie point. The rebuttal was a face full of smooshed birthday cake by someone calling himself Duncan Hines, someone you’ll hear about later.
I’ve been living with my Aunt Margaret since I was a baby. I was told that my mother had died during childbirth, but that was all the information I got. I don’t know how many times I just laid in bed thinking that she died so I could live. At least, that’s how it seemed to me.
I tried to ask more questions, but it’s a subject that’s been avoided like the plague. Every time I asked a question, it was always brushed aside like they were hiding a deep secret. It was reflexively changed to something about school, or my football and basketball teams.
Even if I would continue pressing her for answers, Aunt Margaret would say what lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside you. It was a quote form Ralph Waldo Emerson, a writer and thinker she admired.
Now, I guess you’re wondering about my father. Well, I would like to say it’s not as complicated, but that would be a lie. I never met him, either. His story is a little more clear. At least in what they’re willing to share. He was a scientist and was visiting Kazmeria to investigate the Azkania and Lystonia volcanic fields. He was studying how the island formed, whether it broke off from Africa or Asia, or was it created volcanically. I was told that the volcanic fields spawned some hot springs, and it was there that he met his fate. Well, that’s the way Aunt Margaret described it. While working one day, he slipped and fell into that scalding water…well, you probably guessed what happened.
I wanted to know why we never visited his grave, but Aunt Margaret said he was buried at sea per his wishes. But no one ever mentioned he had a boat or loved sailing. And why wasn’t he buried next to my Mom, a gravesite I’ve been to hundreds of times? No one could give me a direct answer. There were a lot of hems and haws, followed by maybe I would like some ice cream. Ice cream only goes so far. I was hungry for the truth.
So that makes me an orphan. I hate that word. It makes me feel like I don’t belong. My Aunt Margaret makes sure that I know that I belong. I really can’t complain. She treats me just like one of her kids, and I feel part of the family, to tell you the truth. But I can’t deny there’s something missing. Every morning when I look in the mirror, the image I see is incomplete. Who am I? Who am I really?
Now, I don’t dare share that with anyone else. Kids at school are bad enough. Knowing that I don’t have a Mom or Dad at home, they pick at it like a scab. I get teased almost daily. It’s something they can feel superior about, at least that’s what Ella tells me. So she tells me to ignore it.
It’s time I tell you about Ella. She’s a girl. Ha! But I’m sure you probably figured that out. I could describe her by her appearance, and I don’t think she’d mind, but what I like about her (and this is entirely confidential), is that her personality draws you in, like a warm ray of sunshine on a cold winter day. She’s smart and funny, someone you can depend on no matter what, who also happens to have a pretty smile. Now, if you ever tell her I said that, I would probably never speak to you again. Maybe that’s exaggerating a bit, but let’s keep this between you and me.
She’s the one who kept me from getting sucked into the Bio Condenser. That was a close one, let me tell you. It was in the lab we were searching, and someone purposely activated it. Now, I’ll get to all of that later, but I’ll provide a brief explanation about this Bio Condenser before I go any further.
Get this: A human body weighing 155 lbs. contains 7 billion billion billion atoms. Got that? That’s a whole mess of zeroes following the seven. Pretty wild, huh?
But even with all those hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon atoms, etc., we’re basically filled with a lot of empty space. Bennie would say my head is a good example. And this is the wildest part: If you take every living person on the planet and eliminate all that empty space, leaving just the atoms, you’d be able to fit all those elements into a sugar cube. So one person is barely a speck.
I know, pretty weird stuff. So the Bio Condenser would essentially condense, or shrink, a body down to its molecular level. At least that was the idea, and I was nearly its first test case.
But that was nothing compared to the Particle Shredder. That was built so that no trace of you would remain. Your physical existence would be wiped from the human record. That’s some devious stuff. And that’s what I was threatened with, but I promise I’ll get to all that.
With everything that’s happened since that morning, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to my fourteenth birthday. You know about Peterson’s cat, and Bennie's flattened hat, but it really all started when I noticed a van not far from our bus stop.
It was right after Bennie scampered back to the curb to avoid getting hit. It was dark blue or black, and there was something unsettling about it. It’s really hard to explain. I just felt this chill run down my spine when I saw it parked across the street.
I told myself it was my overactive imagination, but when I saw that van again outside our school, I really got spooked. I asked Bennie if he recognized the van as we sat at lunch.
“Doesn’t look familiar to me,” said Bennie between bites of his turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich.
Bennie always brought his lunch. He said it was because of his food allergies. Always had the same junk, too. A turkey and cheese sandwich, an apple, a Tastykake, usually some Butterscotch Krimpets, and a bag of pretzels. I never saw Bennie sneeze or break out in a rash after anything he ate, so I wasn’t sure if he was just pulling my leg. Heck, he even ate stuff other people didn't want, just taking it off their trays. Who knows? I figured he just liked turkey and Swiss cheese and that’s why he packed. Sometimes I wish I had turkey and Swiss, especially today after watching them shovel that brown mush onto my tray.
“They say it’s beef stroganoff,” said Jason Agrafante as he moved his fork through the lumpy gravy. “Not bad.”
“You’ll eat anything,” I said, offering his legendary meal of a pizza topped with bacon, lettuce, mayo, sauerkraut, baked beans, and fried bananas, which he scarfed down in less than ten minutes, as evidence.
“Don’t knock it,” said Jason. “Some guys earn a living as competitive eaters. My brother told me all about it.”
Jason vowed he would be one of those contestants on the fourth of July, and even drew a picture on his napkin showing him holding a trophy. But my eyes couldn’t leave another part of the picture. Below his stick figure self was a single slice of pizza. For the second time that day, I got this weird sensation, like a chill. What was going on? I kept staring at that piece of pizza, trying to understand the significance. Something about that shape…
I felt a sharp tug at my arm, jolting me back to reality.
“Look! Look! Someone’s getting out of that van,” said Bennie.
I stood up and made my way toward the window. The man was dressed in black and wore a dark wool cap on his head. I couldn’t make out his features, but I thought I saw a mustache as he quickly checked the rear door.
“You see that?” asked Bennie who was now standing beside me.
“Those horns poking out of his hat.”
Bennie plopped the last bit of his Krimpet into his mouth. “What’s going on? Why are you so nervous, Wes?”
Oh, I forgot to tell you my name. I got this far and it kinda just slipped my mind. Sorry about that. My name is Westinghouse Coleridge. Yep, you read that right. Westinghouse. I can hear you snickering all ready. I’m used to it. Seriously, going through life with a name that invites a lot of teasing. The constant taunts aren’t easy, but it’s a family name and I don’t dare mess with it. It was my grandfather’s name. My Mom made sure I was going to go through this life with some connection to my past.
Everybody calls me Wes. Simple. Three letters. Really easy on the tongue. My maternal grandfather was from Philadelphia, a magistrate I was told. It’s like a step below a judge, a person who hears minor cases like illegally parked horse and buggies or pay phone robberies. That was a joke my grandmother always told when I would visit. Together he and my grandmother raised three kids. My Mom was the oldest, while Aunt Margaret was the baby of the family. In between was my Uncle Gerald who owns a winery in California.
The guy from the van didn’t stay outside too long. The wind gusts were still pretty strong judging by the leaves whipping around, a cluster forming a mini cyclone outside the cafeteria.
“You want to come over after school and play some video games?” asked Bennie who was watching a squirrel dart across the courtyard.
“I got that science project due.”
“So do I. But you can spare a couple of minutes. And I know you want to play.”
Bennie just got the latest version of Galaxy Outpost. He must’ve had some inside connection at Electronic Depot because all the incoming copies were on reserve. He knew I wanted to play and probably couldn’t resist the temptation.
“Let me go to the library first and then I’ll stop over on my way home.”
The warning bell sounded and I grabbed my tray to dispose of the remainder of the so-called beef stroganoff. I admit it wasn’t that bad, but it’s not something I would choose if it was available on a McDonald’s menu. Would you like a side of beef stroganoff with that? Nah. I’m good.
When I got to earth science class, Ella was in the seat in front of me. I was too shy to ask her to be my lab partner. I wound up with Eric Byerly. He was that kid who would crank the bunsen burners to full blast so he could melt pen caps, crayons, or anything he could find lying around the lab. He would snicker at his twisted creations, saying he would be a famous artist one day. My guess it was more likely he’d go to prison for burning down the school.
We were studying about igneous rocks, and once Mr. Thompson pulled down the map, my thoughts went immediately to Kazmeria and my Dad. If you’ve studied geology in school then you know that igneous rocks are formed when magma cools and solidifies. That’s how the Hawaiian Islands were formed. I was curious about Kazmeria and learned that its central and eastern regions consisted primarily of igneous rocks. The island has experienced some minimal volcanic activity in recent years, and the Lystonia fields where he died, were part of a geologic system that still produced hot springs.
Mr. Thompson asked if we knew anyone who had any igneous rocks.
“Do the ones in Eric’s head qualify?” I asked.
Ella laughed so hard she nearly fell out of her chair.
Mr. Thompson, on the other hand, had a huge scowl on his face. “That was totally uncalled for, Mr. Coleridge. We don’t make fun of other people and embarrass them in front of their peers. I think that may warrant a trip to the vice principal’s office.”
Mr. Thompson had the habit of addressing us with the title of Mr. or Mrs. when he was angry, like when we were talking or looking at our phones. I didn’t have to worry about the latter since I wasn’t allowed to have a phone.
“It’s okay Mr. Thompson,” said Eric. “Mr. Coleridge doesn’t need to go to the vice principal’s office.
“That’s not your decision to make, Eric,” said Mr. Thompson as he stood by the door.
A turn of that knob meant I was facing detention. And it probably meant even
greater punishment at home. It was like time stood still as his hand rested on the silver knob.
“I’d like to apologize,” I said quietly. “Sorry, Eric.”
“No problem, Wes,” said Eric who had been shaking his head to make sure there was no rattling. He was a goof, and that’s why I liked him. Still, for someone who’s been a target of name calling, I don’t know why I said that. You’d think I’d know better than to make fun of someone even if they are a good friend.
I felt a huge sigh of relief when he pulled his hand back from the doorknob.
“You’re lucky I’m in a good mood,” said Mr. Thompson as he returned to his desk. “Next time, you may not be as lucky. Got it?”
I nodded my head.
As I settled back into my chair; I had drifted onto the edge anticipating that walk, a note landed in my lap. I carefully opened it.
“Tell Eric that I apologize for laughing at your joke. P.S. It was still really funny.” It was signed Ella.
We spent the rest of the period learning about how islands are formed. While volcanic activity accounted for the majority, other theories suggest that some of these islands broke away from continents. He asked us for possible examples and Ella raised her hand.
Kazmeria was part of a supercontinent at one time that included Africa and India. Those two broke apart from that continent with India moving north, with Kazmeria eventually breaking away from India.”
“That’s essentially correct,” said Mr. Thompson as he pulled down the map. “No one really knows for sure, was it Africa or India, but with a land mass that large, it’s almost certainly a function of rifting.”
Once again, I was reminded of my father. This was exactly what he was investigating when he went to Kazmeria. I didn’t know what rifting was, but I was going to look it up at the library.
Mr. Thompson took his pointer and circled the island in the Indian Ocean. It lies east of Madagascar and is known for its diverse lemur population, an evolutionary distinction it shares with its sister island.
“Now, Kazmeria is the tenth largest island. Does anyone know what the largest island is?”
Mr. Thompson waited a few moments. “Anyone? “Now, we just studied about this…”
“Greenland,” answered Ella.
“That’s correct. Greenland is the world’s largest island.”
“I was just going to say that,” said Eric.
In the back of the room, Billy Straub had Timmy Essington in a headlock. Those two were on the wrestling team, and they often sparred as lab partners.
“Mr. Straub, this is not the wrestling room. Take your hands off Mr. Essington immediately.”
“We’re just fooling around,” said Billy who enjoyed inflicting pain on others.
“And you could wind up injuring one another,” said Mr. Thompson who reminded Billy about all the glass beakers that could break with their roughhousing.
“We’re not anywhere near any of that stuff,” said Billy who retaliated with a shot to his lab partner’s midsection after Timmy sneaked in a punch.
“Didn’t you hear what I said?”
“He punched me first.”
Mr. Thompson stood and walked toward the door. “Why is everyone so insistent on seeing the vice principal? You know, I’ll gladly accommodate you, Mr. Straub.”
“Like you did with Westinghouse?”
“That’s it. Let’s go. Down to Mr. Pearson’s office.”
“What happened to your good mood? You changed back into Dr. Jekyll?”
Mr. Thompson faced turned as red as Santa’s suit as he opened the door. He motioned with his forefinger for Billy to hurry up with his exit. As Billy passed, Mr. Thompson reminded him that the correct comparison regarding that famous duo would be Mr. Hyde and not Dr. Jekyll. He was always teaching.
“You know Vice Principal Pearson ain’t gonna do squat,” said Billy. “So what’s the point?”
“We’ll see about that,” said Mr. Thompson as he closed the door.
Somehow I knew that this incident would have repercussions. Billy Straub never misses an opportunity to taunt me about my last name or my heritage, so his trip to the vice principal’s office is not going to be overlooked.
I didn’t have to wait long.
SLAM! A hand reached behind me, smacking my locker closed.
“Ya know, I’m going to miss a big wrestling meet because of you,” said Billy practically spitting in my face.
“What are you talking about?”
“I got detention. And that means I can’t wrestle against Moreland.”
Moreland was our biggest rival and everybody in town wanted nothing more than to beat the Muskies in every sport. It was a like this generational bonding thing.
“How is that my fault?”
“You make a crack and get away with it. That makes you a teacher’s pet and I don’t like teachers’ pets.”
It didn’t matter that what Billy said wasn’t true. It was his truth. I knew a punch or headlock would be coming my way. My earlier instincts had proved correct.
The space around us soon widened as the once bustling hallway emptied as kids retreated to the safety of the far wall in anticipation of a fight.
I caught a glimpse of Ella as she tried to get to her locker on the opposite side of the hallway. I didn't want her to see me since I wasn’t very good at confrontation. But with all the commotion, that was going to be impossible.
“I don’t like you, Westinghouse. Or should I call you Stovetop Stuffing, cause I’m going to stuff you right in that locker.”
For some reason Billy chose to taunt me with stuff you cook on a stove. I guess food was always on his mind as a wrestler. I’m not even sure Westinghouse made stoves, but that didn’t matter to Billy. I’ve also been Sloppy Joke and Jiffy Poop.
Billy pushed me into the locker. “Now that I can’t wrestle at the Moreland meet, I’ll need to get my work in somehow, right? And you’re going to be that guy.”
I found myself wedged behind a saxophone case and wondered whose locker I was suddenly inhabiting. I always wanted to play an instrument, but I just didn’t have the patience for it. My Aunt Margaret enrolled me in piano lessons, but it was a disaster. I just couldn’t get my fingers to cooperate. It was like they were allergic to the keys. And when I would practice, it sounded like a cat was running across the keys.
I squeezed my way out of the locker and tried to head to my next class.
“Where do you think you’re going, Stovetop Stuffing?”
“I have geometry, Billy. Ya know, it’s the study of shapes and figures, and I figure you’re the most moronic shape I’ve ever seen.”
“What did you call me?” asked Billy, raising his fist.
“I didn't call you anything,” I said as he inched closer. “I made an observation. And it happens to be true."
“You think you’re funny, don’t you, Stovetop? Well, you won’t think it’s funny when you’re missing some teeth.”
I whirled around and picked up the saxophone case using it like a shield.
WHACK! Billy’s fist smashed into the hard plastic and he crumpled to the ground. His fall was accompanied by a yelp so loud it brought out a slew of teachers who craned their necks to see what happened.
Mr. Thornton, the first teacher to arrive at the scene, stood over the writhing Billy who was still grabbing his hand. Billy didn’t answer when Mr. Thornton asked if he was all right, and I had to explain that Billy’s hand hit the saxophone case that I was still clutching.
“Were you two fighting?” asked Mr. Thornton.
My hesitation was all Mr. Thornton needed to know and he promptly sent me to the vice principal’s office. It didn’t matter who instigated it; he decided that the matter was something for Vice Principal Pearson to handle, and I could plead my case in front of him. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this wasn’t going to be the last time we’d butt heads as I watched Billy being led to the nurse’s office.
“I’ll meet you at Mr. Pearson’s office very shortly, Mr. Coleridge,” said Mr. Thornton who took the saxophone case from my hand. “You won’t need this.”
“What happened?” asked Ella as I started that long walk to Pearson’s office.
I tried to answer, but my attempt was quickly interrupted.
“Please get to class, Miss Brewster,” said Mr. Thornton as he began clearing the hallway. He was another teacher who subscribed to the Mr. or Miss title before your name when you’re flirting with trouble. “Mr. Coleridge has somewhere he needs to be, so please move along.”
All I know is that it’s not good to be Mr. Coleridge twice in one day.
Mr. Pearson was a short, squat man with a round face and silver wire rim glasses. He was often jovial, but he was the disciplinarian for a reason. He didn’t tolerate any nonsense, and once he unleashed that scowl, your fate was sealed. You’d be sitting in his office after school for however long he decided.
To be honest, I was all prepared to keep that scowl from appearing on his face. I mean, this wasn’t my fault. Billy picked a fight with me. Why am I being sent to the office?
Billy was a bully. It wasn’t a school secret, and he happened to pick on me even though I tried to avoid any confrontation. Open and shut case. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. For some reason I didn’t want to seem like a whiner. Poor Westinghouse can’t defend himself so he has to be treated like some sort of baby. Word would spread that the teachers would have to rescue me anytime Billy meets me in the hall. I wasn’t going to let that happen. So I just clammed up.
Mr. Pearson tried to get me to tell my side of things, but I didn’t say a word. I just hung my head and stared at the floor.
“I don’t understand your reluctance to tell me what happened, Westinghouse,” said Mr. Pearson as he got out of his chair. “It’s for your own good.”
He said I could avoid detention if I just told him the truth. Again, I remained silent.
I looked up to see that scowl.
“In that case, you leave me with no other option than to give you detention for a week, starting tomorrow.”
He looked at me as if that sentence would change my mind. It didn’t. I would serve the detention and deal with Aunt Margaret at home.
As I was about to leave, Mr. Thornton entered the room and whispered something to Vice Principal Pearson. Mr. Pearson’s brow furrowed and I could only wonder what would have caused his expression to change. I would soon find out.
Once I heard that Billy broke his hand, my heart sank. Mr. Pearson’s scowl deepened as he let me know that another incident like this could have serious repercussions, whatever that meant.
“I now have to inform Mr. and Mrs. Straub that their son has a broken hand, and that’s not a pleasant task, Westinghouse. We are here to make sure all students are safe, and I failed in that regard. Understand? That is my responsibility.”
I finally broke my silence. “I apologize for everything that happened. I didn’t mean for Billy to break his hand. I’m sorry.”
Strange as it sounds with all the crap he’s given me, I did feel sorry. I knew that wrestling was something he was good at and it meant a lot to him to compete. And now he couldn't because of me.
“Take this home with you, Westinghouse,” said Mr. Pearson as he opened the door.
I held the letter in my hand knowing full well that it would make my week’s detention in Pearson’s office look like a vacation. Her punishment would far exceed anything the school could dish out. Maybe I could misplace it? You know, set it down at the Woodside Library while I was doing my homework…and whoops!
No, that wouldn’t fly. Not with Aunt Margaret. I would simply have to deal with the punishment. I’m thinking I could always sneak to Bennie’s house to to play video games instead of going to the library, which would most likely be the only spot I’d be allowed to go.
Mr. Pearson’s scowl lingered long after he escorted me from his office, and I was sure I would encounter more of the same in my soon-to-be jail cell.
Some of the kids were patting me on the back for giving Billy what he deserved, but I didn’t feel like celebrating. Outside the skies were turning dark again and the first few flakes had begun to fall. Honestly, I just felt like leaving this dreary place behind with all its B.S., and go somewhere exotic where palm trees swayed in a soft tropical breeze.
Ella finally caught up with me just before last period. I told her what happened and she offered her support. I managed a slight smile as I said thanks.
It was fleeting as my real punishment was moments away.