8th Grade by Cole Parker

Sometimes the kids don’t like a teacher.
Sometimes a teacher doesn’t like the kids.
That could be. . . awkward.

Chapter 2

I was pushed up against the lockers, hard, soon after I left class. Brad was scowling down at me with nothing I wanted to know anything about shooting out of his eyes.

“Fuckhead. What do you think you’re doing?” he yelled at me. “I’m in big trouble. My parents are already all over me for my grades, and now detention on top of it? I was supposed to get a better grade on the next quiz, and I get a damn D, and I’ll probably sit out my next game if I miss two practices because I’m in detention, and my mom’ll have to wait till that’s over to pick me up, and I’ll be late for the dentist appointment, and it’s all because you’re such a fucking asshole. I’m going to kill you.”

This last pleasantry was mentioned as he was drawing back his fist to begin his announced program of mayhem. As he was a couple of inches taller than me and perhaps 30 pounds heavier, as he was an athlete and, to put it as succinctly as possible, I wasn’t, and as he was mad as hell and I was scared shitless, the result of his fist flying unimpeded at my face wasn’t going to be something I’d remember fondly when I was recalling my days at Carver Middle School. If I lived to remember them.

Perhaps it was my quivering demeanor, perhaps it was the look of abject terror on my face, perhaps it was that my only sign of defense was to tightly close my eyes, I don’t know, but in the end he didn’t throw the punch. He stopped, took his left hand off my neck where it had been keeping me propped in an upright position, and I promptly slumped to the floor. He looked down at me disgustedly, said, “Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it,” turned and steamed away. The farther he walked, the lower his shoulders drooped in dejection.

I should have stayed there, but I felt awful for him, this golden boy for whom everything should go perfectly, and despite my fear that he might change his mind about the murder, I got up as quickly as my still trembling legs would permit and ran stumblingly after him.

“Brad,” I called as I got nearer to him, and he stopped. I ran up to him and faced him. That required screwing up my courage, but I did it. My voice, when I spoke, was still a little hesitant because this was a boy I hadn’t ever had the nerve to talk to, and doing so took every bit of nerve I had, and that was on top of knowing how pissed he was at me. “Brad, I’m sorry. I really am. Sorry. I didn’t know you’d get detention. I never would have said anything if I’d known that. Actually, I said it so that. . . .” It suddenly occurred to me, much too late, that if I said I was feeling sorry for his humiliation he might be madder than he already was. You’re not supposed to have protective emotions like that for other boys, and you’re absolutely not supposed to talk about them if you do.

The pause lengthened. “You said it why?” Brad eventually asked.

“I was mad and wanted to make her mad. I didn’t think anyone else would get involved. Graedon and I have been fighting all year, you’ve seen that. It’s been going on since I pointed out that problem she did wrong on the board. She’s been trying to embarrass me ever since. She’s an evil witch and if you get on her bad side, you never get off it. I just snapped today. She made me angry and I snapped. I can’t believe I got you in trouble too, and I’m really, really sorry.”

“Fuckin’ lot of good that does me. Detention and a D. Oh yeah, I can hardly wait for the fun times at my house tonight.”

I took a deep breath. “Brad, I can help you with the math. If you let me, we can get your grade up.”

“Yeah, that’s just what I need. You and your F are going to be a big help. Right.” He looked disgusted.

“I don’t actually get F’s in there. Even with her grading me as hard as she can and marking me off if my handwriting isn’t neat enough or if I leave three spaces between problems instead of two, shit like that, I’m still getting an A–. I just wasn’t thinking about math on this quiz and made a silly mistake. I do know this crap, and I can help.”

Brad didn’t say anything for a minute. He was staring at me. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. Then, when he spoke, he said, “Aw shit, what harm can it do? You can start in detention tonight. But I’m hopeless. You’ll see.”

--- --- {} --- ---

So that’s how I got to work with Brad Decker. Not that I’d planned it or anything like that. I was much too shy to do something like that. Brad was the school hero. As 8th graders, we were the top class in school. There’s always a top kid at school, too, the most popular, the one everyone knows and admires, and that was Brad. He was the top athlete. He starred in all the sports we had, playing the glamour positions, and to top that off, he was blond, well-built, very good looking and didn’t have the stuck-up personality most guys did who had all that going for them. Girls talked about him at lunch, whispering and looking and giggling and blushing, and the ones who weren’t shy were all over him as much as he’d permit them to be; he dated some of them, dated as much as a 13-year-old can, but seemed to steer clear of a steady relationship with any one. He ran with the popular crowd and was pretty much the top dog of that group. Did I mention he was good looking?

I, on very much the other hand, was a nobody. Or less. I was very ordinary looking, with a mop of uncooperative curly brown hair approximating the color of mud that did what it wanted to do rather than what I wanted it to. I was much more into books than sports due to an innate clumsiness I think I inherited from my father, and shy to the point where I didn’t have many friends and no really close ones. If I hung with any group at school, it was the “loser” crowd, and I wasn’t really even part of that group. To top off this resume of attributes, I was starting to consider, in an intellectual sort of way, the possibility that I might be gay. I had had no experiences with either sex so this wasn’t a certainty, but I sure thought a lot more about boys than girls. I sure noticed them more. They interested me more. Especially good looking ones. Which meant, especially Brad. But he was so far beyond what I could aspire to, he really didn’t belong in my world and only occasionally entered my fantasies. The class system was alive and well in our middle school. Brad was firmly established at the peak of the top tier. I was somewhere beneath and looking up to see what was happening in the lowest. People in my position considered the possibility of associating with someone in Brad’s position about the same as winning the lottery, only less.

At thirteen, according to the books I’d read, I was pretty normal, which meant my hormones were bouncing through my veins like popcorn in a theater corn popper and I didn’t have much outlet for the things they were encouraging me to do except the traditional one, home alone, in my room, the door tightly shut. At school I had become very efficient at covering myself up with notebooks, untucked shirts, carelessly hung jackets and the like as any odd fleeting thought or incidental contact could arouse me in about three seconds flat. It occurred to me that if I was going to be spending a couple hours this afternoon and tomorrow with Brad Decker, BRAD DECKER! for God’s sake, I was potentially in for a world of hurt. I’d be sitting next to him, leaning over a textbook with him, feeling his breath on my neck, probably rubbing shoulders with him, oops—something just came up. What if it did that this afternoon? I’d had a crush on him for three years in a forbidden-fruit sort of way, just dreaming, not even hoping. I had a crush on several very attractive boys, but with Brad, it was different. It was bigger. More intense. What would happen if I were forced to be close to him?

I was going to be occupying his personal space, and he’d be occupying mine.

What was I going to do? What if what comes naturally came naturally and Brad noticed?

I was going to be a dead man.


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This story is Copyright © 2004-2018 by Cole Parker; the image is Copyright © 2017-2018 by Colin Kelly; the original image is by elizabethaferry under the Terms of the Creative Commons License CC0 from pixabay.com #417612. They cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story and use the images. No other rights are granted.

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