Friends

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

junior high school student learns a valuable lesson.

Friends

 

 

The incessant chattering from inside the cafeteria was enough to dissuade anyone from entering, I didn’t stop.  In fact, I had only eaten there a couple of times.  But for more than just the bad food or noise, it was all those people. The lies, insincerity, and sarcasm coupled with the ­criticism, distrust and deceit that just got to me.  Sometimes I thought it was just me, but I felt so alone and out of place like I didn’t belong anywhere.  Most times I stayed to myself and ate a bag of corn chips or cheese curls and sometimes had a soda. The vending machines were my lunchroom and I watched people and tried to learn about them and where my place was in this crazy world.

I played shortstop in minor league baseball team, the Astros, and I had a game that night so I was excited. I hit a double in the last game so I was a little nervous as I had to do as good or better this time. Not being so good at baseball, I had to practice a lot, but I had a good time, and I did get better.  I didn’t have any good friends either and although I wasn’t very close to any one on my team, but I knew a player of another team that I met in school and was a nice guy we were oddly the same. 

His name was Billy, he had freckles, was shorter than me and was always sporting a specious smile and acted a little insecure. Billy played catcher for his team, the Yankees, but played and acted like there was something he needed to prove. Billy was very serious on the baseball field but everywhere else he was always joking and courting humorous attention at any cost.  We became friends immediately.

Billy lived about fifteen miles from me on the outskirts of town in a wooded area, with no neighbors for miles.  I stayed over at his house a few times and met his older brother, Eddie,  who had dark hair, was a jock with a good physique, he weight trained, and was good with a twelve-gauge shotgun. I knew immediately Eddie was not a smart person but was charismatic and I liked that.  I looked up to Eddie and kind of wanted to be like him.

Billy made jokes that fell flat as we walked along the path in the woods watching for squirrels. Eddie was the hunter and had a knowledge of the woods but how he handled his shotgun was really impressive.  He was muscular, good in football, baseball, track or whatever sporting event he attempted, and really seemed to have his act together.  Even his dog, Dago, that had the disposition of a vicious Pit-bull, and missing the top of his right ear, obeyed him almost by reflex and could be sent on a mission with a simple “Skit Em” and off he would go to scare up some quail, tree a squirrel or fight any other dog or varmint regardless of size as long as he heard the mandatory order-“Skit-Em….  These qualities seemed admirable because none of the other people I knew had such a level of authority. As I considered his personality, I could see why his brother felt like he had to prove something.

Later in the week, I remember walking alone on the grassy courtyard between the cafeteria and the oft visited vending machines to get my lunch. Stepping up on the covered walk thinking about the game, my new-found friend, and all these people.  I was twelve years old and had just advanced from grammar school to junior high, and the surreal, dreamlike lack of focus had not faded. I watched the other students; the white ones and black, the pretty and not so pretty, and the ones who seemed to know where they were going in life and I wondered where they had gained that direction and confidence.  As I walked, I noticed a crowd gathering around the machines, and I thought it must be a fight so I ran to see what was happening, because everyone always ran to a fight.

The area around the machines was crowded at lunch and people were lined up around the commotion. I had to push and shove just to get around the others vying for position in the crowd to see what was happening.  The first image I got was of some guy with dark hair throwing an overhand right punch that caught his adversary square between the eyes. I knew the guy that got hit from my home room and was surprised as he remained a quiet and laid-back person that I never expected to see in a school yard fight, and he must have been three years younger than his assailant.  The shot sent him banging into the metal barricade around the vending machines.  Shaken by the blow, he still charged and tried to throw his arms around the dark hair’s waist but dark hair feinted to the left and then jackhammered him in the midsection with his right knee which knocked the quiet kid to his hands and knees. With this and whatever happened before I got there, this kid was down for the count.  But dark-hair gave him no reprieve as he lined up and just kicked him under his chin like a drop kick football, which splayed the kid out on the hard, dirty, concrete with an already swelling left eye and a flow of blood from his nose and mouth.  He was out cold.  All this excitement stirred me, but I thought to myself how he didn’t deserve that beating.

Then after looking down at his victim like a victor over his prey, dark hair turned and I was shocked to see it was Eddie.  With a sinister grin of disdain, he looked left and then right, as if making sure the coast was clear, and after teaming up with some laughing, cohorts they walked away before any teachers arrived.

My mind was flooded with emotion and I couldn’t believe what I had just seen, but I reasoned with the judgmental voice in my head and tried to make sense out of it.  As I walked away, I pondered what had happened and I realized that people are so different and cannot be measured by the same standard.  Some using natural abilities bestowed them mortify the lives of others as a right-of-passage.  While others, unsure of their capabilities and looking for people to emulate may struggle for even the slightest reward.  I didn’t stay with Billy anymore and I lost any desire to be like Eddie, too.  In fact, I grew up a lot that day when I realized I would be better off not to try to imitate anyone else but just get to know my own mind disregarding any fear or insecurities while trusting my own instincts.

 

 

 


Submitted: December 04, 2020

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