What Dimes Can Do

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This was assigned to me in English class, to write a short story from 2-3 pages about a significant moment in my life, and this is what I wrote. I'd love to hear feedback before I turn it in so I can get a good grade on it.

Submitted: November 19, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 19, 2008

A A A

A A A


The story began when I was in seventh grade. Back then, things were going pretty good for me. I got good grades, lived close to school and I finally did away with those old stiff collared shirts I had to wear in private school. The transition was pretty smooth despite the changes going on in my life: moving houses, switching schools, learning new social behaviors, understanding public school habits. But something was missing. And I didn’t figure out what that was until a year later.

The bell rang ending the last period of the day, dismissing students to go home for the weekend. As I was walking to the bus, a classmate rushed up to me, did a frew crazy things and suddenly stuffed something in my pocket. She was a weird kid, not that I didn’t like her. She had a tendency to get worked up on various occasions, and sometimes her energy came out in sudden bursts of excitement around certain people. I happened to be one of them. By the time she was gone, I had searched my pocket to see what it was she put there. I found myself glimpsing at something shiny in my hand; a small engraving of FDR’s face stared at me as I continued walking toward the bus. For no apparent reason, she stuffed a dime in my pocket. Not knowing what else to do with it, I left it there, boarded the bus and looked for my seat by the window toward the back. I sat down, placing my backpack next to me and contemplated the ride ahead of me. It would be the last time I sat on the bus before I moved to my new house that weekend. I watched the swarms of rambunctious students behind the fog of my breath clouding the window, and let my head rest on a pane of glass. I waited inevitably for a particular seventh grader to walk down the isle with his instrument in hand, and choose where to sit for the afternoon. I saw him coming. I tried my best to hide from him, to look away and not make eye contact. But I knew he’d sit down next to me sure enough. And sure enough he did.
************************************
Throughout my years in middle school, I had a knack for getting on the bus before everyone else. After going through cycles living in several different neighborhoods in that particular school district, I knew that getting on the bus early was a must in order to get the seat you wanted, especially if you didn’t want to end up in the wrong seat. I made sure to sit in the front row of the last four seats – or the eighth row on the bus – as those seats belonged to the less popular students among the eighth graders. The further back you sat the more popular you were considered to be. So, I made sure to play it safe and go for the front row of the back seats. Little did I know that this bus had a preponderance of seventh graders and less eighth graders so, unlike most of the other buses I rode going to school in different neighborhoods, the eighth row on this bus was for seventh graders – not eighth graders. I had just walked into a death trap without even realizing it.

I sat myself down in the eighth row toward the back of the bus, relieved at the thought that I found the right seat and had avoided the middle school faux pas of tampering with the unofficial hierarchy. People started climbing up the steps to the bus and strolling down the aisle usually did and I waited patiently for the bus to fill up. At first, I was glad nobody was sitting in the eighth row seats, and I thought I was safe. Everything was going as planned, - nice - smooth and predictable, just as I liked it. Like I said, it was a smooth transition. I hardly noticed the two boys who were walking down the aisle with their backpacks and instruments, and when they stopped by my seat it took me a little by surprise. One of the boys looked at me funny, though I can’t remember how the other boy looked at me. They probably looked at each other a couple of times and decided to sit next to me anyway.

“Hi,” one said to me.

“Hey,” I said, trying to act casual.

“What’s your name?” they asked.

“Curtis,” I said. “What’s yours?”

They both looked at each other quickly, and the other one responded first. “I’m Bob and he’s Joe.” He said, trying not to break his poker face.

“Sure…” I said.

“I’m Alex,” said the first one, “and he’s Noah.”

I probably gave a quizzical look.

“It’s ok if you don’t want to tell me,” I said.

“No, really, those’re our names,” said Alex, “I promise.”

I gave him a second glance. Then I realized something.

“Alex?” I asked aloud.

“Yeah, Alex.”

“Are you Andrew’s brother?” I said, rather proud of myself for noticing.

“Yeah, how did you know?”

“I knew he rode this bus, and you kind of look like him.”

“Are you friends with him?” he asked.

“I don’t know, we talk sometimes in class. We’re acquaintances.”

“Oh.” He said, in a quiet demeanor.

************************************
“Hi,” he said. “What’s up?” I tried to act as indifferent as I could. I probably shrugged. “How’s it going?” he asked again. I waited for some other kid to listen in and join the conversation. But it never happened.

“I’m fine I guess,” I conceded. I looked out the window and waited for him to move somewhere else.

“Is this yours?” he asked. I turned around, careful to avoid his eyes, and noticed the small dime that the girl had stuffed in my pocket had fallen onto the seat space between us.

“Oh you can keep it, that’s fine.” I said. I looked away. He started talking again.

“Heads or tails?” he offered.

“No, that’s fine.” I said.

“Come on, heads or tails?” he offered again.

“No, really, it’s fine,” I said, trying to remain indifferent.

“Come on, choose one.” I turned around to see him looking at me, waiting for a response. I finally gave in.

“Okay. Heads.” He flipped it. It spun in the air with a metallic whir as it flew upward, landing with a thump in his palm. He turned it over with a smack on his other hand and opened it up, revealing the backside of a dime.

“Aw, too bad,” He said. “”Wanna try again?”

“I’m okay,” I said, trying to give him a reason to stop talking. Though I really didn’t want him to.

“Pick a side,” he insisted.

“Tails.”

He flipped it again, and this time, it went flying to the back of the bus into who knows where, landing with a metallic chime that was lost in the incessant chatter toward the back of the bus.

“Oh sorry, do you want me to get that?” he asked, getting ready to get out of his seat.

“No, that’s fine, I don’t need it,” I said, expecting him to leave now that the dime was gone. But he stayed anyway.

He didn’t move. No matter how frequently I looked away, no matter how much I tried to give him a reason not to talk to me, he kept talking to me. I wanted more than anything to prove somehow that he wasn’t just talking to me, that there was a genuine reason to it, and that all this trouble he seemed to go through to be with me had a sincere motivation behind it. But whatever the reason, he kept talking.

“Just leave him alone, he obviously doesn’t want to talk to you,” somebody blurted from the back of the bus. I didn’t know what to make of it.
************************************
Throughout our various encounters I never knew what to make of how he acted around me. His actions seemed contradictory; sometimes he was bold yet outgoing, other times withdrawn and agitated. But whatever he was, he did it with his own personal style, and he never failed to perplex. He was walking down the bus aisle like he had been doing for the past couple of weeks; things were starting to build into a regular routine of him coming to me and sitting next to me, and a friend or two would sneak along with him and sit next to him when he began ‘pestering’ me or whatever you wanted to call it. He liked to have an audience, and for whatever reason, I was the object of their antics. This always made me suspicious as to why he approached me all the time, the way he always had a friend or two gathered around him. I could tell he liked others being around, but I constantly wondered whether it was because he wanted to amuse them, himself, or if it was as simple as the fact that he was popular amongst his friends and they found themselves inseparable from him. Whatever it was, he would sit next to me, and at least try to converse with me.

“Do you speak any other languages at home?” he asked.

“Um… no…” I said, slightly hesitant to answer the question. He looked at his friend and tried not to laugh with my slow response.

“What kind of sports do you play?” he followed shortly after.

“Uh… I play squash.” He smiled.

“Oh yeah, I play squash too,” he started, “I have my own paddle…”

“You have a paddle?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, “A squash paddle.” I could tell he was trying not to laugh.

“Yeah, I’m sure you do,” I said, or something like that.

“Okay, that’s fine if you don’t believe me.” He said.

“I would, except there’s no such thing as a squash paddle.” I said.

“Oh,” He said, giggling like a girl with one of his nearby friends for a minute or two. Then he decided to do it again.

“So how do you play squash?” he asked. I shook my head in disappointment.

“Look,” he said, “You don’t have worry about what I’m asking me all the time,” he started. “You don’t have to be so... so…”

“Skeptical?” I suggested.

“Yeah,” he said.

************************************

But my reflections were disrupted with a sudden inquiry.

“Am I bothering you?” he asked.

“No,” I said almost too quickly, shaking my head.

He looked at me again.

“Do you think I’m making fun of you?” he asked.

My head seemed to sink. I felt so stupid when he asked me that question. Is he trying to make this hard for me? Why does it seem so difficult to understand? I couldn’t imagine why he acted the way he did around me. I couldn’t figure out the reason why he kept talking to me. Why is he so nice to me? Is he being fake? Does he feel sorry for me? I couldn’t think of a reason for the way he acted around me.

“I don’t know, you tell me,” I concluded, not knowing what else to say.

His facial expressions and his body language seemed to change, the tone in his voice seemed to tighten up along with the rest of his demeanor. Then he spoke.

“Look,” he said, “I don’t do that kind of stuff.”

Each word seemed to reverberate through my head. My mind pulsed with a strange euphoria that I didn’t understand. It was almost as if this time he actually meant what he said to me, as if this time there wasn’t something hidden in what he was saying. And yet almost as soon as that feeling came, it disintegrated into another.

It was my last time riding the bus. And it was probably the last time I would see him. Gloom coursed down my body as quickly as the ecstasy escaped me, vanishing like a rogue plastic bag being shucked in the wind of a grocery store parking lot. Just as things started to piece together, I was devastated by the blunt, unchangeable truth that I was going to leave. And there was nothing I could do about it.

Everything flashed through my mind as we approached his stop, and I braced myself for him to leave for the last time. I frantically tried to think of something encouraging to say before he left, but I drew a blank as to what to do.

“Bye! I’ll see you Monday,” he said before he got off the bus.

I wanted so badly to tell him that I was leaving tomorrow, and I wouldn’t be here, but the words couldn’t come out. I didn’t know how to begin with everything that was going through my mind.

“It doesn’t matter…” I started to say, that I wouldn’t be on the bus Monday. But I was stuck not knowing what to say.

“What’s that? It doesn’t matter?” he said, then waited for a response. But I couldn’t find the words to finish my sentence.

“Okay, see you Monday then,” he said, unchanged, and got off the bus.
************************************

“Why do you always sit by the window?” he asked me once.

I remained silent.

“Why don’t you sit on the edge seat?” he asked, looking at me with a faded playful smile.

I don’t know I felt like saying, but my lips sunk into each other, forbidding words to come out. I froze solid. I couldn’t budge a word out of my mouth.

“Come on,” he’d encourage me, “sit on the edge seat. Come talk with us.” He’d say.

I wanted with every ounce of me to move out of my seat and listen to him, to talk to other people on the bus, but I felt like a fool, and I didn’t understand why. I stayed in my seat, refusing to leave.

“Come on, just move to the left. Switch seats with me,” he insisted.

But I couldn’t move. I just couldn’t get myself to move.
************************************

I couldn’t believe how badly I screwed up. The minute I figured out he wasn’t making fun of me, all I could say was ‘it doesn’t matter’. Of all the words to speak, I had to say that. It didn’t matter; that’s all I said, so that’s all he could have understood from me. And despite that, it didn't seem to bother him at all.

I slowly slumped into despair. I suffered as subtle blows struck me down, punch after punch after punch, striking my stomach and neck and chest. I couldn’t carry the weight of the thought that just hit me. I couldn’t believe how long it took for me to get this point – and it took only seconds to feel this bad.

Once I got off the bus and finished my walk home, I disintegrated into something I hadn’t felt for a while. I felt sad. I felt really, really sad.

I dropped my things by the door, hoping nobody would notice where I was going.

“Hi,” said my Mom. “How was school?” she asked. I had to force myself to speak a single word.

“Fine,” I said, marching toward the basement.

I scuttled down the basement stairs and went into the laundry room, not understanding why. I shut the door, turned off the lights and jumped on the dryer, which was running, and did something I hadn’t do in a while. I cried.

I cried for a good hour or so, wishing I could stay just a little bit longer, wishing I didn’t have to move the next day, wishing that I had some excuse to ride the bus again. But I didn’t. And there was nothing I could do about it.

The very will to resolve was so lost my mind collapsed. So my body did what it had to, subconsciencly going for a stroll in the neighborhood, something I did when I felt bothered or stressed. I wanted badly to stop thinking about it, to move on with my life and ignore everything he said. But I still wanted to change what I said, to have finished my sentence, to have explained to him what I really meant. I wanted him to understand, and above all, I wanted it to matter. But I knew it was too late.

It wasn’t until I made my way back home that I heard the first person on my stroll. It was a soft jingling noise in the distance; it gradually got louder as it came from behind me. But this time, I didn't care who it was, there were other things on my mind. I continued to walk as I regretted to myself all the things I should have done.

It was while I was thinking this that the jingling noise stopped next to me. I ignored it. Then someone started talking to me.

“Hi,” said a familiar voice. I turned to my side to see who it was. There was the kid, the one from the bus, standing next to me, with a panting dog on a leash walking next to him.

“Oh, uh, hi,” I said.

“Look, I’m sorry if I kinda blew you off when you’d talk to me on the bus…” I started, thinking how to formulate the rest of an apology.

“Oh no, that’s fine, don’t worry about it,” he said, trying to cut me off. But I had to say something this time.

“I just didn’t know you were trying to be…uh…” then I didn’t know how to finish my sentence. What was he trying to be? What was he doing? Was he just being polite? kind? outgoing?

“A friend?” he suggested.

“Yeah,” I said, holding back a smile.


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