high school

First it was Steve Pomeroy—now Mike Miller. And this is just the first year. I don't know if I can take this, Lord. I'm used to being called nerd, geek, the notes shoved in my locker, the wads of paper hitting the back of my neck in class. That doesn't bother me so much any more. But these guys don't stop at words. They get physical. It's starting to scare me, God.

Dad keeps saying Mike must be lonely. That his parents don't pay enough attention to him, so he's "acting out." So I'm not supposed to hate him, but try to "identify with him," try to be his friend. But he doesn't know Mike, Lord. You know what he's like. He doesn't want me as a friend. He has friends. If he made friends with someone like me, his friends would be all over him. He's not trying to get my attention like some little kid on the playground. He spit in my face. Oh, God...

Mom wanted to call the principal. I told her no, but she said the only way to stop this was to tell someone who could do something. But I tried that before, with Steve Pomeroy. They sent me to the vice principal, who said he would talk to the coach right away—but I didn't want him involved, Lord! But the vice principal just kept saying "that's the way it works.” Coach must have said something to Steve, because he changed. Yeah—he got better. He'd only go at me when no one else was around, or do stuff I couldn't prove was him. And I could tell people looked down on me even more after that. A whiner. I know they thought I should've done something myself. Fought back. At least tried to stand up for myself. I don't think I could then... but now... When Mike hit me in the back yesterday, it happened so fast and I was so pissed I almost did it, Lord. I know it's not right, not what you want, but I almost did. I
could have.

His cheek was pressed hard into the cool steel of the lockers. It hurt. But his arm hurt more, where he had fallen on it. And Mike's breath was right in his ear, nasty, drilling in with practiced skill, but filthy, hating. And why? Why? He never did anything to Mike. Why the hell... ah... ow-OW! SONuva... Thought stopped. His whole body tensed to lash out...


Mike froze. It was Steve's voice. "Hey, what have... we... here? You two having a little lover's spat—or are you collecting lunch money, Miller?" Laughter. There were four of them, all football players. They were coming closer. "Guess we should come to the rescue. That would be the right thing to do... You know, Miller, if you want a workout, why mess with little geeks like him? We'd give you a much better work..."

Suddenly Mike released him, and he hit the hard tile. There was a struggle above him. Thank you God, thank you. Blows. Mike was grunting in pain. Coughing. Somebody laughed.

He started to get up. "Hey! You want a shot? This is your chance..." He looked up—they were all looking at him. They wanted him to hit Mike too. He didn't move. "Don't worry kid, he can't hurt you now… look at him." A dark bruise was already forming under Mike's left eye, but the eye rolled up and fixed on him. And he saw the wet, crimson lips saying, "Do it. I dare..." Mike got hit in the stomach. "Don't be afraid. If he tries to get back at you we'll mess him up again. This is your chance, kid!" He looked at Steve. Then at Mike. Then at Steve. And turned and slowly started down the wide hallway. Thank you...

"Oh, you pussy!"

Steve. And someone else let out one short laugh. The laugh cut him more.

He was right in my face and called me a fucking coward, Lord. All alone in the bathroom and he was right in my face. "...a fucking coward—or you thought you were having mercy on me! If you think I need your mercy you're one stupid piece of shit. Nobody needs your mercy. You should have done it when you had the chance. Because I'm going to make you pay anyway—you know that, don't you? You're at my mercy now..." Someone came in, but I know that's not going to stop him for long, Lord. A coward. Or a piece of shit. Lord, I know I'm not that. I know. But they keep saying the same thing. They keep coming, one after another, and they keep saying it, Lord. And they don't stop at words...

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