The Different Child

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Norman reflects on the day that influenced the murder of his classmate.

Submitted: November 12, 2016

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Submitted: November 12, 2016

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I’d really done it now. It was a mistake, a total mistake. Here I was, in the middle of the forest with my classmate Brad. His hands were tied together with duct tape, and his legs were broken from the bat that I used to crush them.

He was bleeding. Bleeding so bad from the bullet that I had lodged in the right portion of his chest.

“You son of a bitch! You shot me!” Brad screamed.

“I’m so sorry!” I cried.

“You shot me!”

I was scared, I didn’t know what to do. I’d thought about this moment in my mind. I was to pull the trigger once, and then this all would be over. None of it was going the way I’d imagined.

----

It was the day before it all happened, when I was walking to the school bus after classes had ended at my High School. I’d felt something peg against the back of my head; it felt like a cinderblock falling from the sky and smacking me senseless. I’d fallen to the ground, my glasses broke, and I was seeing stars everywhere. I thought I was having another seizure.

My lungs began to close, and it was so hard to breathe. And then I heard laughter from directly behind me.

It was Brad. Standing tall, about twenty feet away. “I said ‘watch out’, Norman!” His friends liked to laugh with him, and this case was no exception.

I then realized what had happened. There was a wobbly football rolling past my body. Brad had thrown a direct spiral at his intended target. Me. I did not think that I deserved to be treated this way, no matter how different I seemed in front of everybody.

I wasn’t a sports-guy, I wasn’t tall, I wasn’t smart, I wasn’t really much of anything special. I had a special shirt that my father gave to me last year, before he died. I thought it was special, and I’d worn it every day since he gave it to me. I may have outgrown it, but I still liked to tuck the edges into my pants, because that’s the way he said that proper men wear clothes.

“You wanna give me my ball back?” Brad spat on the ground.

I decided that picking myself back up and throwing the ball back would have been the right thing to do. So I did.

“Whoa, you almost threw it all of five feet!” Brad laughed. I really didn’t like the way he laughed at me. “Good job, Norman!” And I really didn’t like how he spoke to me as if I were a toddler.

I was only in the tenth grade, but not even my mother spoke to me this way any longer.

“Let me try again,” I told him. I thought that if I could throw the ball further, Brad might stop treating me like a child.

“Beat-it, Norm,” he spat towards me. “Go be a retard somewhere else.” He stared at me with eyes that I thought would hurt me.

And I tried not to cry.

Why are you treating me this way? I thought I knew the answer. Mother had told me one day that I wasn’t like all the other kids in my class, and so I’d need to take special classes with different teachers. I really did hate that word. Different.

My teachers said that I was different. My mother said that I was different. And they all thought that my writing was different. They told me that I have trouble connecting my thoughts on paper, that I can’t create emotion in my words.

But I don’t think this is true. I think that being different is what sets us apart from one another. I’d read an article by Steve Jobs, and it said that he created the phrase ‘Think Different’ for his computer company. And I like thinking different sometimes.

“I want to try again,” I told Brad. “Throw me the ball, Brad.”

He gripped the ball tight in his hands. “You want the ball?”

“Yes,” I said.

I saw him smile towards his friends, and I thought that this was a good sign for me. I thought that he might have been enjoying himself with me. So I extended my arms and waited for his arm to throw the ball.

He did throw the ball. But I did not expect it to come at me so quickly. I was not a sports-guy, and I’d never learned to ride a bike. The ball seemed to slip through my hands, and it smacked me right in my nose.

I fell to the ground again, and my face felt numb all of the sudden. My glasses had fallen off my face and shattered, which meant I could only see a blur of blood on the pavement that was coming from my nose.

“Norm!” Brad screamed. “Why didn’t you catch the ball?”

I tried not to cry, but I couldn’t help it any longer. This really hurt my face so bad, and I couldn’t really see anything around me.

There was laughter, and not just from Brad and his friends anymore. I was being made fun of again, and I really didn’t like to be made fun of.

“Just get on the bus, Norm,” Brad said. “I don’t want you getting your blood all over the football.”

I tried picking myself up and finding my glasses. Some of my books had fallen out of my bookbag, and some of them were the kinds of books that I didn’t want to show anybody.

Somebody who I couldn’t see said, “Holy crap, are those coloring books?”

“Yes,” I cried. I really did like to color, and the shapes inside the book helped me stay inside the lines of the Disney characters.

I tried to pick up all of my coloring drawings that had fallen out of my bookbag, but some were stolen, and some were blown away by the wind. I couldn’t go chasing after them because my school bus was about to leave.

There must have been three dozen buses waiting in the lot, and because my glasses were broken, I couldn’t find the school bus that was mine. They all began to leave, one by one, so I chased after them.

“Wait!” I screamed. But none of them stopped. I knew that it was dangerous to follow cars down the road, so I stopped and stared as they all drove past me.

Mother was not going to be happy with me. I’d only missed the bus once before, and mother had to leave her job to pick me up. She wouldn’t let me eat on that night that it’d happened, and I had to stay in my room until the next morning.

I felt my stomach grow hungry, and I think it knew that I wasn’t going to eat until the next day.

“Norm!” I heard Brad yell my name. “Why didn’t you get on the bus?”

I really didn’t want to talk to Brad anymore. He didn’t seem like he wanted to ever be my friend.

I remember sniffling the blood running from my nose, and everything around me was a fuzzy blur. I needed to find an adult in the school so that they could call mother and tell her to come pick me up.

I knew where the school was, so I began walking while hugging my backpack, just in case some more of my coloring pictures were loose inside my bag.

Brad was still in front of the school entrance when I walked towards the doors.

“Where you going, Norm?”

“I need to find an adult so that they can call my mother to come pick me up.”

“Geez, really?” I couldn’t see brad, but his voice sounded nicer than it was before.

“Yes,” I said. And then I tried to find where the door handle might have been.

“Well do you need a ride?” Brad said to me.

I tried to turn and see him, but I put my hands in front of my face in case he tried to throw the ball at me again. “Don’t throw the ball at my face,” I said.

“I’m not going to throw the ball, doofus.”

I heard Brad’s friend say something, but I couldn’t hear as much with the ringing in my ears and my sniffling.

Brad didn’t say anything to me, so I tried to find the door handle again. It was so hard to find because I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

“Where do you live, Norm?”

“One hundred Oak Street,” I said.

“Alright, let me give you a ride, then.”

“No,” I said. “No thank you.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re not my friend and you’re not in my family,” I said. “My mother doesn’t let anyone who’s not my friend or a part of my family drive me anywhere.”

“I’m not your friend, Norm?” Brad sounded hurt by my words. And I grew hopeful that we might be friends soon.

“Do you want to be my friend?” I asked him.

“I thought we were already friends.”

“Really?”

“Yea, dude,” Brad said.

“But you laughed at me when you threw the ball at me.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” he said. He really did sound like he meant it.

I said, “Okay,” and I didn’t feel the pain in my heart as much anymore. “I can’t see you right now. Can you walk with me to your car?”

“Absolutely.” Brad began laughing, and so was his friend. “I have to give my buddy a ride home, too. You don’t mind if he tags along as well. Do you?”

“No,” I said. I thought that I might become friends with Brad and his friend on this day. Brad had grabbed my arm to guide me to his car, and we walked across the baseball field and into the student parking lot.

“My car’s just right up here,” Brad said.

“Okay,” I said.

“Here, let me get your backpack for you,” Brad’s friend said to me.

“No thank you,” I told him. And I really did not want him to take my backpack. There were my coloring books inside, and some of them might have been lost in the wind if he opened the bag.

“Let me have it.” Brad’s friend ripped the bag from my chest, and I didn’t like Brad’s friend at all anymore.

“Please don’t open it.” I said.

“I just wanna take a look,” he said. And then he did open my bag.

“My drawings!” I cried. Most of my color drawing pages were flying out of my bag, and some I knew were my absolute favorite color drawings. “Why did you do that?” I tried to run after the pages, but Brad grabbed my shirt and stopped me.

“Don’t run out in the street!” He yelled. “It’s not safe, Norm.”

“But my drawings.”

“Whoops,” Brad’s friend said. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew that he was smiling and laughing at me. I began to cry and watch cars begin to run over my drawings with their wheels, and then I saw somebody step on one of them. I really just wanted to find them all and put them back inside my backpack forever, but I couldn’t.

“Please,” I cried. “I just want them back.”

“Sorry, Norm,” Brad’s friend said. “They were kind of shitty drawings, anyway.” He began to pat me on the shoulder and laugh, and I was becoming so angry that he thought my drawings were poo.

I didn’t mean to do it, but I turned around and hit him in the face with my fist. I’d never hit anyone in my life before, and so I didn’t know what to do after I hit him.

“Hey, whoa!” He yelled.

“Dude!” Brad said.

“The little bitch just hit me!”

Brad began laughing, while Brad’s friend put one hand over the left side of his face.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Damn right, you’re sorry.” I didn’t think Brad’s friend liked me anymore. But that was okay with me, because I didn’t think that I liked him either. “I think I’m going to enjoy this a little bit more,” Brad’s friend said.

“Enjoy what?” I asked Brad.

“Nothing.” Brad grabbed my shoulder. “Good going, by the way, Norm. The kid deserved to get slugged.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Screw you,” Brad’s friend said.

“I think Norm’s earned the right to sit shotgun.”

“Shotgun?” I asked.

“It’s the front seat.” Brad opened the car door for me. And I really liked the feeling of being in the front seat, just like one of the grown-ups.

Brad’s friend was sitting in the back seat, and Brad was driving when we left the parking lot. I couldn’t see the road in front of me, but I knew that Brad was going in the right direction of my house.

“Hey, Norm,” Brad’s friend leaned forward and put his hand on my shoulder. “Do you know what country we live in?”

It wasn’t a question that I thought I was going to be asked outside of school, but I liked to answer questions that I knew the answers to.

“Yes,” I said. I was glad to answer it. “We live in the United States of America.”

“Very good!” Brad’s friend said. I didn’t like the way he was talking to me, though. “And do you like living in America?”

“Yes,” I said. “It’s the land of the brave and the home of the brave.”

Brad laughed hard next to me. “That answer’s close enough, I guess.” I felt weird all of the sudden, like I’d answered the question wrong.

“And are you patriotic?” Brad’s friend asked me.

“What’s patriotic mean?” I asked nervous. I didn’t like to be asked questions that I didn’t know the answers to.

“It means that you like your country, and that you’re willing to make sacrifices for it,” Brad’s friend said,

“Sacrifices?” My face scrunched. “What kind of sacrifices?”

“Well I’ve made plenty of sacrifices for my country,” Brad’s friend said, then began tapping the back of Brad. “And so has Brad.”

I could feel my hands getting more nervous all of the sudden. I didn’t know what they were really talking about, and I didn’t like not knowing what they were talking about.

“Have you made any sacrifices for your country, Norm?” Brad’s friend asked me.

“I don’t know,” I said nervous.

“You don’t know?” Brad’s friend sounded concerned for me. “How could you not know? If you’re not sure, then that means that you haven’t made any sacrifices for your country.”

“Is that bad?” I asked scared.

“Well it’s not good.

My heart was suddenly feeling funny, and my hands were shaking. I really didn’t like anything bad happening to me, and I didn’t know if Brad and Brad’s friend were warning me about something bad that was going to happen to me.

“It’s okay, though.” Brad’s friend put his hand on my shoulder. “That’s what we’re here for. We can help you make a sacrifice for your country.”

“What sacrifice?” I asked.

“Oh, you’ll see.”

Brad’s car then turned into a parking lot, but there didn’t look to be any cars anywhere.

And the buildings looked like nobody had been inside them for a long time.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“To help you make your sacrifice, of course. You do want to make a sacrifice for your country, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said. But I didn’t feel good in my heart any longer.

Brad parked his car in front of the building and told us to follow him. He went inside one of the buildings, and I followed him inside. It was dark and empty inside, and there were only pieces of cement on the floor. I didn’t know where we were, but I knew that my mother would not have liked me to be here.

“Can I go home now?” I asked Brad.

“But what about your sacrifice?” Brad seemed hurt that I did not want to sacrifice for my country. And I didn’t want Brad to feel bad by my words. I thought Brad was going to be my friend. “Don’t you want to sacrifice for your country?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Don’t you trust me?” Brad asked. “Don’t you trust your friend?” I liked that Brad said that I was his friend, and I liked that he wanted me to trust him.

So I told him that I trusted him, and he said, “Good. Now do you see that pole over there?” Brad pointed to a skinny pole that was in the middle of the building. It was hard to see, since everything was blurry.

“Yes,” I said. “I think so.”

“Well then do me a favor and go hug the pole.”

“Why?” I asked Brad.

“Just trust me,” Brad said. And he sounded nice and sincere to me. “You’ll be able to make your sacrifice for your country.”

“Okay,” I said. And I walked over to the blurry pole and began to hug it.

“Grab the duck tape,” Brad said to Brad’s friend, and then he told me to close my eyes.

“Why?” I asked Brad.

“Just trust me.”

“Okay,” I said. I liked that Brad kept wanting me to trust him. I did trust him, and I closed my eyes.

“Okay, now hold still,” Brad said. There was noise all around me, and Brad and Brad’s friend were whispering to each other. I was feeling a sticky tape all over my hands and feet, and when I tried to move, I couldn’t. I wanted to ask Brad about what he was doing, but I thought he might get angry again and tell me to trust him.

Then he put the tape over my eyes and mouth, so I couldn’t see anything, and I couldn’t ask him what he was doing. I thought that this might have been the sacrifice that he told me that I was going to do for my country, but it was confusing to me. I hadn’t known what a sacrifice was, but I guess that Brad and Brad’s friend had done this sacrifice as well.

So I stayed still. I stopped hearing the whispering around me, and then it was quiet for a very long time. I couldn’t read my watch on my wrist, but it felt like I had been sacrificing for my country for almost two hours. The sacrificing felt so exhausting, which I thought Brad and Brad’s friend would think I was tough.

I don’t remember when I fell asleep, but I do remember when I woke up. There was a loud banging sound that seemed to get closer and closer to me. I really wanted to ask if it was Brad or Brad’s friend if they’d come to end my sacrifice, but I could only stand and listen. I heard what sounded like animals around me. They sounded like the raccoons and rats that my mother hated so much inside our house.

I hated them so much as well, and I was scared that one might come near me. I screamed loud from underneath the tape, and then I started crying. I felt something touch my shoe, but I couldn’t move to run away. My heart was racing so fast, and my lungs felt that they were choking me. My body began shaking, and I knew that I might have been having a panic-attack.

And this was all I remembered before I woke up later on. I began to hear footsteps from the entrance of the building, and I thought it might have been Brad or Brad’s friend. I was so exhausted, I didn’t want to think to ask him if the sacrifice was finally over.

And then I heard, “Jesus Christ,” and it wasn’t in the voice of Brad or Brad’s friend. I then heard footsteps rushing over to me, and I grew nervous because I thought that I had been found by a stranger. And I really didn’t like talking to strangers.

“Hold on, son,” the voice said next to me. “Hold on. Don’t move.” The duct tape began to loosen around me, and I didn’t know if my sacrifice was over yet. “We’ll get you free. You poor kid. Hold on. Hold on.”

The duct tape came off my eyes and mouth, and my eyes were blurring from the darkness and my vision. “Is the sacrifice over?” I said.

“Hold on. Don’t move.”

The last of the tape came off my hands, and I felt so happy to finally be free. I moved my hands around, and my legs were all wobbly.

“Are you alright, son?”

I tried looking at the man who’d taken off the tape, but I couldn’t recognize the blurry face. He looked like a black man, and I knew that I’d never known a black man in my life. This was a stranger, and I really didn’t like talking to strangers.

“Are you Brad’s friend?” I asked him. “Did he send you to end the sacrifice?”

“Sacrifice?” He sounded worried. “What sacrifice?”

“For my country,” I said. “Brad said that I needed to do a sacrifice for my country, since Brad and Brad’s friend did a sacrifice for the country. Have you done a sacrifice?”

“Oh, son,” the black man said. He didn’t sound like he understood what I was talking about, and I grew nervous because I thought he might not have been Brad’s friend. “Did somebody do this to you?”

“I shouldn’t be talking to a stranger,” I said.

“Well good for you,” he said. “Do you want to use my phone? Call your folks?” This man’s voice was nice-sounding to me, and I thought that he might want to be my friend. If he was my friend, then he wouldn’t be a stranger any longer.

“Do you want to be my friend?” I asked him.

“Sure, kid,” my friend said. “But let’s just call your folks first. Sound good?”

I nodded my head up and down, and he gave me his cell phone to call my mother. I knew she was going to be mad, since the sky was dark outside, and I wasn’t home yet.

When she picked up I heard mother scream and ask where I was. I said that I was with my friend, and mother asked to speak with him.

My friend took the phone and said, “Hi, I’m so sorry. I’ve found your son, Ma’am. Everything is going to be alright, we’re at the old shopping center down on Spruce Street. Your son is safe, Ma’am…. Yes, of course we’ll wait for the police to arrive. He’s a brave kid, Ma’am. A really brave kid.”

I felt good in my heart after he said those words to my mother. My friend gave me back the phone and my mother asked me if I was at the old shopping center. I told her that I was, and she began to cry and tell me not to move a muscle.

I felt bad that my mother was crying, but I thought that as soon as she knew about my sacrifice, she’d feel happy for me. And then she’d feel even more happy for me once I’d tell her about the three new friends that I made on this day.

I saw the police and the lights begin to shine through the window, so I told my mother that the police were here, and she said that I could hang up the phone now, and that she was already on her way.

“Thank you,” I said to my friend. “Do you think that Brad will let this be a sacrifice for my country?”

My friend knelt down in front of me. He took out a handkerchief and wiped the dry blood from my nose. “Is this Brad-guy your friend, son?”

“Yes,” I said proudly. “He’s the one who taught me about sacrifices for my country.”

“Did he, now?”

“Yes,” I nodded proud.

My friend then grabbed both of my shoulders. The way he held me reminded me of the way my father held me before he died. “Listen, son,” My friend told me. “I don’t know you, and I don’t know much about what happened in here. But let me tell you something. Whoever this Brad-person is, he is not your friend. And if he were here right now, and if you were my son, it’d take more than the police to stop me from takin’ a bat to his legs, and a bullet to his chest. That kid ain’t your friend, you hear me? That kid deserves what’s gonna come to him.”

 

Written in memory of a very special and different child. You will be missed.


© Copyright 2017 Michelle Audet. All rights reserved.

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