Never call me Bobby

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Short Short Stories!
a short glimpse into the life of a boy on the run.

Submitted: October 17, 2018

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Submitted: October 17, 2018

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“That’s not fair.  I didn’t start it.”  I stared directly at the nameplate on his desk.  Dr. W. L. Harrison, Principal.  I almost laugh thinking about the rule I was taught about how to remember to correctly spell principal or principle.  Just remember that the head of the school is your friend so you will find pal in his title.  I don’t for even one second believe that Dr. W. L. Harrison is my friend.

“Young man.  This is your second fight in three days.  I have no choice but to suspend you for the remainder of this week, “ Dr. Harrison responded. “You will wait in the office until your parents arrive to take you home.”

I glanced up quickly and saw the scowl across his face.  Just that one quick look and I knew that he knew nothing about me.  He probably didn’t even know my name.  I grabbed my backpack from the floor and left his office without saying a word.  There was nothing to say.  It was all happening again.

The morning had not provided any clues, nothing unusual to cause me to be more careful.  Walking alone the six blocks from the shelter to my new school, I tried to make a plan for this third day at Westfield Junior High.I wanted to arrive early, get to my first class and hide in the back of the room.  I wanted to become invisible.

As I was placing books in my locker it happened.  Josh Herman came up behind me pushing me into my locker.  How do I know it was Josh?  He made certain that I knew him on my first day, at lunch, on the soccer field.  I was watching a couple of kids passing a soccer ball when Josh rushed forward, kicked the soccer ball directly at my face and then ran over me when I cover for protection.  How will I ever forget looking up at 200 pounds of blubber standing over me and laughing?  Laughing and bringing back a foot to kick me.  I kicked first, directly in his groin, hard, and was nearly crushed when he fell.

That was the first fight.  Josh was the man, the big man, the very big man.  I was the scrawny new kid.  I get it that Josh had to put me in my place.  There has always been someone wanting to show me who rules.  The teacher assigned to monitor the field during lunch didn’t get it.  I wasn’t hurt, Josh was in serious pain so it was my fault.  First strike against me, forced to apologize, shake Josh’s hand and help him to the nurse’s office.

Today was different.  I hadn’t seen Josh coming behind me but I felt the sharp edge of the locker door smash into my face when he pushed and I found myself partly inside my locker, Josh’s big hand on the back of my head. 

“What are you going to do now, Bobby?” Josh sneered.  “Try and kick me again?”

I twisted to break his hold on my head but only managed to turn enough to have his greasy hand cover part of my face. 

“Bobby.  Isn’t that a girl’s name?”  Josh taunted.  “Bobby sox, Bobby pins.  You must be a…”Josh never finished the last sentence before my fist connected directly with his nose.  He staggered back, I jumped and hit again, harder and felt his face crack under my fist.  This time I was standing over him.

“Don’t ever call me Bobby!”I shouted as a pair of strong hands pulled me away.  I still don’t know who pulled me off.  Since I was standing, only a red mark on my cheek from the locker door, Josh was on the floor, blood gushing from his flattened nose, it was my fault, again.

The bench in the office was solid wood, hard wood and very uncomfortable.  I knew that I would be sitting for a long time, just waiting until someone came to take me back to the shelter.  Ms. Baker, the school secretary, called the shelter and at first thought that she had dialed the number incorrectly.  I know because I heard the surprise in her voice when her called was answered by Child Protective Services and she began apologizing for call a wrong number.  She quickly relayed the information about me and requested that someone pick me up from the office.

“Bobby,” Ms. Baker looked at me curiously.  “I didn’t realize you were living at the shelter.”

“Don’t call me Bobby.  I don’t like that name.” I responded gruffly.

“I’m sorry.  I just thought that you…” Ms. Baker didn’t finish her sentence.  “Do you need anything?  Water?”

“No thanks.  I’ll just wait.”

After the first hour waiting became excruciatingly boring.  I tried reading but couldn’t concentrate because of the hard bench.  Moving didn’t help.  My butt fell asleep.  My legs began to tingle.  Dr. Harrison didn’t need to suspend me from school.  Sitting on this bench for an hour was enough punishment.  Fat assed Josh should be sitting here except he would have broken the bench.  The more uncomfortable I became the more I understood that I could not come back here, not to this school.  I already had two strikes against me.  Josh would make sure that I had my third strike.

I saw the police car pull up in front of the school and was relieved that they didn’t arrive with lights flashing.  That would have brought everyone to the windows to watch me get taken away for nailing Josh in the nose.  I took a last look around the office and said “Good bye” to Ms. Baker before leaving with the officer.  This was it.  I knew I would never be back here again. 

Back at the shelter, I dropped my backpack on my bed and sat down.  My bed was the last of six beds in the squad room.  This was a transitional facility, a place to keep kids who had nowhere to go until they moved on.  I was in the squad room by myself now since John was moved to a foster home yesterday.  The door wasn’t locked.  We were free to go to the rec room, not like the kids who were in serious trouble.  They were locked up behind a heavy steel door.  Maybe that is where I will end up because of what I did to Josh.

I knew that I would have to tell Maria about what happened in school.  Maria is my counselor.  Her real job is a juvenile probation officer but was assigned to me when I was brought in last week.  She has been nice, got me enrolled in school, got me some new clothes, got me into the shelter rather than locked up.  Now I will have to tell her that I can’t go back to school. 

I met Maria when I was released from the sheriff’s office after I was arrested for shoplifting.  It wasn’t really shoplifting.  I didn’t really steal anything.  I was just eating an apple in the Win-Dixie.  I might have also been drinking a soda, but it was nothing that cost more than a dollar or two.  Not enough to have me arrested.  The sheriff released me to Maria because I said was only 13 but wouldn’t give names of my parents or an address or even a phone number.  That I won’t tell anyone, not even Maria.  I know I can’t go back there either, ever.

I stayed alone that night.  I ate in the cafeteria by myself.  The juvies ate on their side of the cafeteria, behind the short wall that divided the room, watched by two guards.  I didn’t go to the rec room.  I just sat on my bed, waiting, thinking about what I would tell Maria.

Morning came early and unexpectedly.  I fell asleep on top of my bed, fully dressed.  I woke to shouting coming from the hallway.  Angry shouting, like a fight.  The noise stopped suddenly with a with a cry of “Your hurting me” echoing from the hallway.  The voice sounded like Josh.  Could it be?  Could Josh be in custody?

I jumped from the bed and dashed to the door leading to the hallway.  There he was.  Josh.  Face down on the floor with a deputy sitting on top of him, placing cuffs on his hands that had been pulled behind his back.  I ducked back into the squad room.  Better that no one knows I saw anything, especially Josh.  I didn’t need him coming after me because I might have seen something.  I looked at the clock.  It was only 1:30 in the morning.

I was still groggy from a lack of sleep when Maria came into the squad room.  I must have looked very bad from the expression on her face.

“Why aren’t you in school?” she asked without even saying hello or good morning.

“Can’t.”  That was the best response I could think of in my state.

“What do you mean - can’t?”

“It wasn’t my fault.  I didn’t start anything.”  I immediately jumped to my defense.

“I didn’t ask anything about fault.  I ask why you aren’t in school.”  Her stern look told me that this was not a time to play games.

“I got suspended.  For the rest of the week.  OK?”

“You got suspended.  For what?  Fighting?”

“Yeah, but it wasn’t my fault.  I didn’t start it. I never start it.”

“Well, if you think that you are just going to lie here on your bed all day, think again.  You wait here, I’m going to make a phone call.”  Maria walked out of the squad room and headed down the hallway.  I know she is calling Principal Harrison.  If I stay, then I will have to go back to that school.  I can’t do that.

I grabbed my backpack, dumped the books on the bed and quickly stuffed in a few things from my locker.  Before Maria can return, I am out the door, on the street, running.  My only thought is getting away. Far away.

The first time I ran, almost a year ago, I didn’t have any idea of where I would go, what I would do or how I would live.  I only knew that I had to get away.  The feeling of knowing that I must get away hasn’t changed.  Since then, I have learned how to live, how to get money, where to find food and how to not get caught, well almost on not getting caught.  I will choose another place to go.  Someplace where I can hide.  Disappear.  Someplace where no one knows me.  Someplace where I won’t be blamed for what happened.

First, I must find where I hid my bag.  The bag I had before I got caught eating an apple.  I’ll keep the backpack I got for school since it is a lot nicer, but I need my money and my other clothes.  I hid my bag under a bridge, in a small hole behind some rocks.  Safe. 

My bag was there but not behind the rocks.  I found my bag on the ground, open and the contents scattered.  My money was gone.  My note book was gone.  Most of my clothes were gone.  I had five dollars and twenty-six cents in my pocket.  I had the clothes I was wearing and my jacket from before.  I also had my map.

Taking a bus out of here was not possible now.  No money.  Taking busses was safe.  No one ever paid attention to a kid sleeping in the back seat.  That was how I got here.  On an overnight bus, keeping quiet.  Not being noticed.

I knew that hitch-hiking is not possible now.  Maria will have people looking for me and they will be looking for a kid hitch-hiking.  I spread the map out on my lap.  The closest town is twenty-two miles away.  Two days walking, at least.  Maybe more because I will have to stay away from the highway. I packed what I needed in the backpack and took my first steps toward somewhere.  Just not here.

My feet were tired, my legs were tired, and my back ached, and I knew that I could not go any further.  The day had been very long and tiring.  An old abandon barn by the road would have to be my stopping place for tonight.  Dinner would be the peaches I picked earlier today.  The other times I ran away I always stayed in a town and could find what I needed.  This would be different. 

There was just enough light for me to see that the barn was empty, no animals, no machinery, just lots of dirt and dust.  I found a stall that had a pile of straw that would be my bed for tonight.  I looked for a blanket to lay down first but found nothing.  I ate a peach that I had in my backpack and tried to settle in for the night. 

The light shining in my face brought me out of a restless sleep.  I couldn’t see who was holding the flashlight but knew that I could not get away.

“Son, it isn’t safe sleeping in this old barn.”  The man’s voice sounded old and tired.  “Where are you going?”

“Nowhere.”  I tried to shield my eyes.

“How long have you been on the run?”  The man aimed the light at the floor. 

I didn’t answer right away.  “I’ll get going.  I don’t want to cause you any trouble.”  I gathered by backpack and tied my shoes. 

“I didn’t say you had to go.  You should have asked to stay in my barn before you just moved in. How old are you?” 

“Sixteen.”

“You don’t look a day over fourteen if you ask me.  You can stay the night but not here in this old barn.  It just isn’t safe.  This old building is going to fall soon. Come with me, I’ll put you up in my garage.”

I followed the old man to a room in the back of his garage.  It was a small workshop.  The old man showed me around before leaving me for the night. There was a recliner that I would use as a bed and a small bathroom.  And it was warm and clean.

I woke early, just as the sun was starting to rise.  I wanted to be gone before anyone else was awake.  I knew that the old man had helped me, and I should at least tell him thanks, but I also knew that I didn’t want anyone taking care of me.  He would insist. 

I shouldered my backpack and slipped out the door.  There on the step was a brown paper bag and a note. 

Robert,

You met my father, Ed.  He called me last night to tell me that you were here.  We made you two sandwiches and packed some fruit for you to take with you.  I could have called the sheriff last night, but my father told me not to do that.  He insisted that this is your choice.  He said that you can keep running if that is what you want, or you can stay and give yourself a chance. 

Maria

I looked across to the house and could see the old man standing at the window, not looking out but busy doing something.  I didn’t see any cars in front of the house so was sure that Maria wasn’t there.  I slipped the lunch sack into my backpack and took out a pencil.  I tore a small strip of paper from the bottom of Maria’s note and wrote Thanks and slipped the paper into the door jam. 

The morning sun felt warm as I walked.  I knew Ed and Maria were trying to help me, but I don’t want or need any help.  I made a promise to myself a year ago.  I promised that I would never, ever let myself anyone control me again.  I would never be Bobby, the little Bobby who would never be good enough, or smart enough.  I would never again be that little Bobby who had to have someone take care of him.  Never again.  Never would I be poor little orphan Bobby.

The further I walked the more I thought about Ed and Maria.  I know that I can never tell them about my promise to myself.  That will always be nine alone.  I took Maria’s note from my backpack and read it again. 

It was almost noon before I spotted the old barn again.  I waited by the road for a while before walking to the door and knocking.  Ed opened the door after a minutes and looked down at me, not saying anything.

“I can work and do things around here if you need something done.  I can tear down that old barn if you want me to.”

 


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