This story is by Viktor Knight and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I laid there alone, stretched out and still, stupidly staring into a sea of blue before it hit me.
Literally. Right in the face.
“Hey, idiot,” a voice called. “Throw the ball back!”
The only things I wanted were peace and quiet but that wasn’t happening. I sat up and glanced at the kickball that interrupted my daydream. It rolled to a stop and rested a couple feet from me. I was frustrated for two reasons:
1) I was positive they purposely threw the ball at me.
2) I had to get up to get the ball. If it was closer, I could lazily reach over and toss it back.
Brushing the dirt off my battered blue denim behind, I stood and walked toward the innocent red circle. I glared at the sixth graders laughing and high-fiving each other, proud of their shenanigans. I counted six, too many to fight. I had to get revenge another way.
I picked up the ball, turned towards my tormentors and threw it in their direction. The main culprit was a chubby kid named Kevin Bell. He stood there, arms raised, preparing for a catch then immediately dropped them in frustration as I launched the kickball towards him.
The ball sailed towards him, over him, over the fence, and right the woods that marked the boundary of the schoolyard. Just as I planned.
“Whoops!” I declared sarcastically. “Guess that’s game over!” I raised my fist in dramatic fashion then raised the finger in the middle. That’ll teach him.
Kevin, not wanting to be shown up by a fourth grader in front of his friends, charged angrily towards me. With the pride of a heavyweight champion, I stood my ground, anxiously anticipating the encounter.
He whooped me. It wasn’t even close.
The history teacher, Mr. Turè, had to shove through a circle of rowdy kids to scrape Kevin off of me. Where did so many kids come from and why weren’t more of them rooting for me? You would think there’d be more support for the brave kid who confronted the schoolyard bully.
I sat alone outside the principal’s office awaiting my sentence.
Kevin and Mr. Turè were inside Principal Morris’ office retelling the events and calling parents. The seconds dragged into minutes but I was enjoying the precious time in solitude. I was in no rush to get back to my tortuous math class. My teacher, Mrs. Simpson, was an impatient old witch who smelled like sour moth balls. I think she took joy in watching us suffer trying to solve her overcomplicated math problems. The way she pointed her ruler in our faces while scolding us could be likened to a sorceress casting spells with a wand.
Meanwhile, I tried looking through the glass section of the wooden door but failed. All I could see were a few shadowy silhouettes hidden by thick black lettering that read “Principal”. I looked at the empty row of cheap, chipped wooden chairs to my left and right then slumped back into my seat, head to the ceiling. A few emotions and thoughts ran through my mind. The dominant emotion was anxiousness to get this over with. The dominant thoughts were mental playbacks of the schoolyard fight. I should have bobbed and weaved more.
The door swung open.
Chubby Kevin Bell, clearly dissatisfied with his sentence, exited first followed by Mr. Turè.
“Mr. Tyson,” he called. I hated when he addressed me by last name; it made me feel old. “Would you step into the office?”
Here we go, I thought. Let’s get this over with.
I plopped into one of the two chairs facing the large and cluttered mahogany desk. On the other side the fat, mustached judge sat waiting with his hands folded over his gigantic gut.
Hasn’t anyone in this town heard of sit ups?
Just then, a button popped off his ill-fitting suit jacket and rocketed straight towards me. I swiftly dodged it.
That move would’ve come in handy against Kevin.
“Mr. Tyson,” Principal Morris started. Great, you too?
He completely ignored the fact that his garment almost killed me and continued anyway. “It seems you’re quite the troublemaker.”
I had a bad feeling Kevin didn’t quite tell the whole story.
I was right.
Kevin had them both convinced that I started the fight by stealing the kickball and tossing it off the schoolyard property. I argued my side of the story but it wasn’t working. The teacher and principal exchanged glances, unsure of who was telling the truth. They called my parents and my mother had to leave work to get me. Long story short, Kevin and I were both going to be placed on suspension for several days.
My mom wasn’t upset; she was relieved that she got to leave work early. Still, she was the parent so she had to go through the obligatory parental scolding. On the ride home, I remember hearing pieces of her lecturing:
“Something, something…violence isn’t the answer.”
“Blah, blah…you should know better.”
“Yadda, yadda…I’m going to tell your father.”
Her threats to inform my father didn’t bother me, I could already anticipate his reaction. I was glad she hadn’t mentioned anything about putting me on punishment. I was at the final stage of my favorite Nintendo 64 game, 007: Goldeneye, and I didn’t want this altercation to prolong my long-awaited victory.
We got home and she headed to the kitchen to get a head start on dinner. I headed to my room to get a head start on 007. As soon as I flicked on the console’s power switch a shrill voice screamed from down the hall,
“Don’t you dare turn on that game! You wait until your father gets home!”
On one hand, that game would be defeated another day but at least now I had some alone time. There wasn’t much else to do but lay down and contemplate on the frustrating day. The same questions ran through my mind. What did I do wrong? Why was no one understanding me? What’s mom cooking for dinner? It didn’t take long before sleep took a hold of me.
I was awakened by a knock on my door, firm but not too loud. The smell of mom’s chicken alfredo greeted my nostrils, strong but not overwhelming.
“Come in,” I called, as if my parents needed permission to enter their fourth-grade child’s room.
My father stepped in and I tried to read his face, stern but not intimidating.
“Your mother told me about what happened.” His facial expression changed completely.
“That’s my boy!” He was congratulating me. “Did you finish with an uppercut like I taught you?”
“No, dad.” I had to disappoint him. “I lost.” The loss wasn’t embarrassing because of the undesired results, but because of my unproven reputation that came along with my name. I had to ask,
“Why’d you name me Mike Tyson? Now I’m gonna get clowned by all the kids at school.”
He went into a speech about the heavyweight champ being his role model. He explained that although he never condones violence he wanted to instill the idea of standing up for what I believe in and fighting for what’s right. I didn’t defeat my bully, but my father was proud that I took the chance.
The next day, I was at the playground with my long time friend and neighbor Cierra Scott. We were sitting on the swings when she asked me about the incident. She asked a question that, surprisingly, no one had asked.
“What were you doing laying in the middle of the schoolyard anyway?”
It was refreshing that someone actually cared to ask about the details. She didn’t judge me when I told her I was depressed because the popular girl at school had rejected me. She understood me. She made me feel valued. I appreciated her for that.
My suspension was lifted in time for me to go to the school Halloween party. I, like so many other students, had arrived in an unimaginative vampire costume.
There I was sitting beside Cierra, dressed as a very common princess, drinking juice and telling jokes. I looked up and saw the most beautiful girl in school gliding towards me. She parted the crowd of pointing and whispering students as she got closer.
“Hi, Mike.” Was she blushing? “I heard about your fight with Kevin. I just want to let you know that I think that was cool of you.” She paused.
“Thanks.” I answered. She seemed to be waiting.
“I was wondering,” she wasn’t used to having to take the lead. “Would you like to dance with me?”
Days ago, I’d have jumped at the opportunity but something changed in me. I looked to the girl who was by my side then back at the stunning beauty before me.
“Thanks, but no thanks.”
I danced with the one girl who never made me feel alone. Today, she is my wife and the inspiration behind this story.