Tolkien it to the Streets (Part II) – A Team PCPB Original Story
The next day at school, things were surprisingly uneventful – as it is when somebody doesn’t set off a stinkbomb. When lunchtime rolled around, conversation was back to its usual self. I was sitting with the usual crowd – including Simon and the bane of my existence Ben Giggard (Imagine a music a sting or the opening notes of Beethoven’s fifth symphony playing as you read that name).
Ben was blathering about something – I wasn’t really paying attention. I figured this was a good time to chime in, “I know who lit off that smoke bomb. Keep it off the record that I said this, but I heard through the grapevine it was the 18-year old freshman.”
They all looked at me as if I grew a second head. Ben just said bluntly, “Robert, no one cares.”
Then they all resumed their conversations. I don’t think they didn’t care, I think they just didn’t care that it came from me. I couldn’t shake this this feeling that maybe if Ben or someone in his circle had made that discovery, THEN everyone would care.
A similar incident occurred later during art class – normally my favorite class. As long as we were doing our work, the teacher gave us a little wiggle room to talk amongst ourselves. It was a different crowd than what I had to deal with at lunch so maybe my material would go over a little better hear. While my classmates were hard at work on their sculptures I decided to bring them up to speed on recent goings-on at the school.
“So remember that stink bomb yesterday?” I asked. “You didn’t hear this from me, but word on the street is the 18-year old freshman is the one who pulled this.”
Alas, my classmate Susan had a similar attitude to Ben, albeit a little more inquisitive: “Why would you tell us that?”
Putting it in the form of a question actually forced me to ponder the matter. I guess it all tied back to what I said earlier about craving that attention. If I was the one who had unraveled some great mystery, I’d be the hero of the school. Mayhaps it was a moment of weakness. I hadn’t gotten attention from my fellow classmates for much, and I thought this might help that cause. That’s a lot to dump on someone so I just told her, “I thought you wanted to know.”
I may have had clay in my hands, but I had egg on my face. Time came for us to clean up, and Carrie approached me. We were working with clay, but Carrie’s shirt looked as if it had already survived a day of painting without washing. She confronted me and told me, “Robert, you really shouldn’t spread rumors like that.”
“It’s not nice. Haven’t you ever heard the golden rule? Treat others the way you wanted to be treated?” (If that rule is true, my fellow classmates must want me to treat them pretty shittily.) Do you want people to spread rumors about you? What if I said ‘Robert Tolkien wears pink underwear’?”
I covered Carrie’s mouth. “Carrie, don’t say that! Just mentioning it offhandedly can spell disaster for me!”
“See? You don’t want people to hear that sort of thing about you. This 18-year-old freshman probably doesn’t want you to insult him. Even if he did do it, it’s not your job to get him in trouble. If he really did this, the school will punish him. And if he didn’t do it, aren’t you going to feel like a silly goose?”
Carrie had a good point. Spreading rumors was kind of a douche move. And even if she didn’t have a good point, Carrie was not usually one to take digs at anything I did. So if SHE says I’m doing something I shouldn’t that’s something I probably shouldn’t do. I just smiled and nodded at what Carrie had to say. If there’s one thing Stephen King books and Brian DePalma movies have taught me: Treat women named Carrie right or pay the price.
It was a few days since I put the matter out of my mind. I was sitting in science class once again. It was a little more bearable because we were watching a movie. It was a dull-as-dishwater documentary, but it gave me a chance to zone out and spend time with my thoughts. Today, however I saw something that grabbed my attention.
Mid-movie, Principal McNeil came to the door and called out Jeremy Kane. I wondered why he was calling on Jeremy. Kane was a good guy – we didn’t talk a whole lot, but I still liked him. We worked together on projects every now and then. Citizen Kane jokes were a foregone conclusion for Jeremey, but being mutual wrestling fans, I busted his chops by calling out, “That’s gotta be… That’s gotta be Kane” whenever we worked together.
Kane was a little dorky with his thick glasses and curly hair. He didn’t talk much and was the kind of guy who didn’t laugh when people said stuff that was funny. One of the reasons I liked his because he was one of the guys who liked me and appreciated my stories. Whenever I told him about teaching Kevin Love how to dunk, he just quietly commented, “that’s funny” with a sly grin on his face. I always hated when people acted like my adventures were some comedy showcase, but it was preferable to being told to shut up or people telling me to get real.
That’s why I was so confuddled about Jeremy having a little pow wow with the principal. For someone like Jeremy, I would anticipate he wanted to talk to him about skipping a grade or giving him some award. However, that wasn’t the tone Principal McNeil communicated when he said, “Jeremy Kane, I need to speak to you.” That was a solemn tone, a tone that communicated Kane was coming back with a few weeks of detention on his rap sheet.
Before, I sat in science class ignoring that documentary with thoughts of Natalie Rowe running through my mind. Now I sat through science class ignoring that documentary with thoughts of Jeremy Kane. Why would he be in trouble like that? Jeremy wasn’t exactly a straight arrow with a flawless track record, but the kind of things he’d get in trouble for felt like they’d be innocuous problems like being late for class or not turning in a paper on time, hardly anything that would call for a trip to the principal’s office.
When class was finally over, I was lucky enough to bump into Jeremy. I asked him, “Hey man, why did Principal McNeil want to see you?”
“Aw man, it was about that stink bomb?”
“What, did you snitch on the guy who set it off?”
“You could put it that way. I’m the one who set it off.”
I… couldn’t believe it. This guy who had never gotten so much as a detention before was the man behind the stink bomb that had been a bother to teachers and students alike. I guess it made sense. As I’ve said before, we all do different things because we want attention. But I had to know why he did it – did he have some kind of vendetta? Was he trying to spite someone particular or the school in general? Though I only asked Jeremy “Why did you do it?”
I expected a much more scintillating answer, but Jeremy’s answer was simply, “It was just a prank. I meant it as a little bit of fun.”
That was it, huh? All that worrying and fretting for nothing. I was still a little curious about Jeremy’s fate. “So what’s going to happen to you?”
“I’m just getting a few weeks of detention, no biggie. By the way, did I hear that you wear pink underwear?” End of conversation!
And that was the end of the big stinkbomb mystery. As Marge Simpson would say, it wasn’t a happy ending or a sad ending, but it sure was an ending.
At least I THOUGHT it was over. Lunch break came around. I was just trying to enjoy my meal when all of a sudden, there was a huge shadow hanging over me. I turned around and who should that shadow be but Lyle Hewett. One thing I forgot to mention about Lyle – he was the kind of guy you’d rather have on your side, as opposed to against you. The 18-year old freshman had a look on his face that said he was not on my side.
“I hear you’ve been spreading rumors about me.”
I took a breath. Carrie was right, Lyle was right. I spread rumors without really thinking. Very rarely am I wrong. However, when I am, I will eat crow. “Lyle, I’m sorry. I did what I did without thinking, out of some vein hope that it would gain attention. I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me.”
“Did you practice that little speech or something?”
Clearly he was not going to accept a simple apology. Perhaps a little reason was going to help the situation. “Look, I don’t see why you’re so upset. Did you get in trouble? No. Just be happy nothing bad happened and walk away.”
“I don’t like when people talk about me!”
“It just means people like you enough to talk about you. Sounds like you’re getting some good PR to me!”
Reasoning is not one of Lyle’s strong suits. He prefers more ape-headed methods of getting his point across. Lyle threw my lunch off of the table. I was still in the middle of eating that bad boy, and all of a sudden the floor was decorated with Salisbury steak, and mashed potatoes. The floor was treated to my favorite beverage, chocolate milk. Lyle no use words. Lyle use fists!
Now was the time for the gloves to come off. I stood up, and I straigtened his collar. It’s very important to dress people like this down so they know who the real boss is. Lyle was already angry, but this display seemed to make him furious. I got in his face, and bluntly told him, “Listen, you troglodyte, I don’t know who you think you’re messing with! But Robert Tolkien doesn’t take shit from anyone! I don’t care if you stand so close to me that I have to smell your stank breath! Now get back to flunking classes and get out of my face!”
A mere conversation was not enough to draw attention from the Peanut Gallery, even if I’m the one speaking. When Lyle shoved away my lunch, that got people looking. After I verbally destroyed Lyle, that got people to shut up. I anticipated my speech to garner huge applause. However, it only earned silence. I prefer to think they were in quiet awe.
Unfortunately, Lyle wasn’t quiet for long, “You’ve got a big mouth. And I think it’s time somebody shut it. I want you to see me after school.”
“Sorry buddy, you’re not my type.”
“I want to meet for a fight!”
“Will I be able to find you? I’m not even sure I’m able to see you now in that camouflage you always wear.”
“It’s going to be fun beating the crap out of you!” Lyle exited stage left. I’m not sure where he went since most of us had lunch at the same time. Then again, I wouldn’t put it past him to skip class just to confront me.
As much as I was looking forward to taking this to the streets and shutting this jerk up, the reality of what I did was beginning to set in. Dear reader, I know what you’re thinking: Can’t I fight? Haven’t I bragged about all these tough guys I’ve vanquished before? Alas, those were fair fights. Yeah, I could still win a street brawl, but who knew what tricks Lyle Hewett had up his sleeve? After all, he didn’t confront me as soon as he heard rumors, he waited until the culprit got busted. (Then again, Lyle was on the slow side – maybe he only now heard what happened.)
Who knew what secret weapons Lyle had up his sleeve? Maybe he had plans to invite the entire Hewett clan. Fighting Lyle already sounded like fighting two people, but imagine if there were two of him. My multiplication skills weren’t the best, but I didn’t like those odds. What if he had a switchblade, or a bear trap, or a subatomic nuclear warhead? Even if I won the battle, my beautiful face might take some damage. Talk about a Pyrrhic victory!
Now I had my share of ways to protect myself – I had my suit of armor that I kept stashed away. Wouldn’t it be funny to put that under my school clothes (some… uh, larger clothes), give Lyle a free shot and reveal I was wearing armor. I also had my mace – both the club and the spray. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of those items at school with me. Bringing stuff like that to school is a good way to get expelled at worst, find myself in psychological counselling at best – or maybe I’d end up in both.
To be concluded
Copyright 2017 Alex deCourville