This story is by Deborah Reagan and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Twelve-year-old Steven Thompson reached up on the top shelf of his locker. He felt the familiar tug on his pant legs. Down came the jeans. Steven turned and looked up to see Jason Jackson and his two seventh grade cohorts, the Ruse brothers. Steven’s English Book and several folders fell on the slick, tile floor. The sixth-grader struggled to pull up his pants. Assignments and graded papers scattered the hallway. Students in transit looked, snickered, and then glanced away from the unfolding spectacle.
Jason “the Argonaut,” as was his nickname for being much taller, muscular and older than other seventh graders, held up the paper that drifted in front of him.
“D+ in Algebra, Stevie,” he announced, brandishing the math paper. “You ain’t smart, are you? You won’t be goin’ to Art School with grades like this. You might even be takin sixth grade over.”
The three seventh graders laughed. The younger boy grabbed for the algebra paper, but Jason held it out of reach. Mr. Kennedy, the school principal, stopped in front of Steven’s locker.
“What’s going on boys,” the observant principal asked?
Jason handed Stevie the algebra paper, and the Ruse twins scrambled to pick up the rest of the dispersed sheets.
“We were just helping him pick up his papers, Sir,” Jason replied.
The red-headed brothers handed the smaller boy his papers in unison.
The principal turned toward Steven. “Is that right, Steven?”
The sixth grader’s lips quivered as he answered, “Yes.”
“Nice job on the ceramic pumpkin,” Mr. Kennedy congratulated him. “I saw it on display in the Art Case. You’re very talented. I understand you’ll be representing us as the school model tonight.”
Steven nodded his head yes.
“It should be fun and educational,” Principal Kennedy said. “I wish grownups could attend as well, but it’s all about the middle school students. All four of the county middle schools, to be exact. Hold on to that ticket and make your school proud.”
“I will, Mr. Kennedy,” Steven answered in a nervous voice.
Mr. Kennedy strolled toward his office as he continued to scan the Junior High hallway for anyone or thing out of place.
Jason grabbed Steven’s T-shirt with his stubby, fat fingers and forced him against the locker. He knocked Steven’s black-framed glasses off the left side of his face. The Ruse twins huddled around the locker to block prying eyes. The sixth grader could feel his hands shake.
“You lucked out this time, crap hole,” the largely framed tormenter boasted. “Next time, you won’t be so lucky.”
He let loose of Steven’s shirt.
“Let’s go guys.”
He pushed the skinny kid one last time before heading to the fourth period with his friends.
“See you tonight, Stevie,” the Argonaut yelled down the hall.
Steven wiped a tear and adjusted his glasses. His legs wobbled as he returned the contents of the spilled folders to the locker. The bell sounded, signaling he was late for class.
“Great,” he said out loud.
He picked up his English Book and tablet and then headed for the office to get a Tardy Pass.
Later that evening, Mrs. Thompson dropped off Steven and his best friend, David Francis, at the County Library. David was officially known as “Flex Man” because of his athletic ability and prowess. The sixth grader had a quick wit and at times, a smart mouth. He and Steven were opposites, but that was one reason they got along so well. He was also somewhat protective of his best friend, so it was no secret he was pissed to hear what had happened to Steve at school.
“We’re gonna get that big prick,” David declared as he and Steve made their way along the library staircase.
“Let’s just forget it,” Steve said, as they stepped in front of other students to take the middle seats in row five of the library auditorium. “It won’t make him stop; it’ll just make it worse.”
Library Staff passed out Click pad Meters to the seated students. Tracy Swan, the presenter for the new television series, About Face, took the stage. The crowd yelled, screamed, hollered, hooted, clapped, and did everything Junior High kids do when out of parental earshot.
“Good evening, Students,” the twenty-eight year old former, Miss California, said into the microphone. “My name is Tracy Swan. I’m the Host of a new Sci-Fi spin-off series called About Face. Former Face Off contestants travel across the country promoting the Arts. Much like Face Off, the artists are called on to create characters based on specific challenges. The sixteen artists here tonight are from the first Season of Face Off.”
She walked across the stage.
“There are four artists in each of the divided makeup rooms constructed on stage. Each room holds a makeup station, a cosmetology chair, paints, prosthetics, costumes, and any supplies they might need to create their subjects. The apparatus handed to you is a voting device. At the end of the show, click the button located on the side of the voting pad. Depending on which group of artists you want to vote for, click on one, two, three or four. Then click the side button one last time.”
The artists took the stage inside their cubicles. A large movie screen dropped.
Tracy continued, “Please vote. The artists win money, prizes, and of course, recognition at the end of the season. The challenge is tonight; create a monster from the 1989 movie Little Monsters, which will be playing shortly. I will select one monster for each team. We will be collecting the voting meters when you leave. One last note. There was one ticket given for a member of each county middle school to be a model tonight. After the movie, you will be called up. Let the show begin!”
The audience roared as Little Monsters played. After it ended, Tracy called for the four ticket holders to hold up their tickets and take the stage. Steven held up his passport. Suddenly, the Ruse twins held him down from behind, and Jason swiped his printed card. Steven’s protests fell on deaf ears in the noisy auditorium. Jason Jackson ran down the aisle, ticket in hand. David chased the seventh grader to the edge of the platform but could not catch him. The Argonaut took a seat on stage in the fourth cubicle.
Tracy pointed to the divided makeup rooms.
“Group One; your monster is Maurice. Group Two, The Boy, with and without his mask. Group Three, Schmoog. And last, Group Four, Snik. You have one hour to complete your monster. Go!”
The artists worked with enthusiasm to meet the deadline. Base coats and prosthetics slathered the models. Visual makeup covered their faces and bare arms. Padding, wigs, and costumes dressed the subjects. The special effects artists did everything possible to build on the strengths of their models.
“Times up,” Tracy announced.
She addressed the artists.
“Group One. I love the gold horns on Maurice. I also like your use of the dead colored skin tone and warts covering it. Nice job. Group Two. Can we see beneath The Boy’s mask?”
The model removed it to show a hideous face complete with green skin and a similar amphibian-like face.
“Fantastic likeness, down to the suit.”
The Host introduced Group Three.
“Looks like Schmooz to me. The rounding of the face is perfect. The makeup colors set off the eye color. The face wrinkles are authentic looking. Great carnival style clothing.”
The Presenter addressed Group Four.
“Snik. You may be the scariest of all. Marvelous job on the outer blue facial tones. The mangy hair and sideburns are a mirror image of him. Good use of the plastic teeth implants. Nice padding and love the orange power glove.”
Tracy held a voting meter up.
“It’s time to vote for your favorite monster. Turn on your meter and vote for Group One, Maurice. Group Two, The Boy. Group Three, Schmooz. Or Group Four, Snik.”
Tracy read the electronic readout.
“The votes are in, and the winner is Group two, The Boy. Congratulations to all of our special artists. A special thank you, to the Friends Of The Library Association for bringing our show here tonight and to the students, for coming. Don’t forget to turn in the pads while exiting.”
Flex Man slid back in his seat.
“Where did you go?” Stevie asked. Jason got me pretty good. He took my spot. There’s no stopping him.”
“I know,” David said, “But the jokes on him. Sometimes a tube of Crazy Glue can look like a tube of Spirit Gum. And we’re the only ones who know why the Argonaut will still be a monster tomorrow.”
The two sixth graders did a high-five. They lingered in the auditorium awhile, watching the makeup artists try unsuccessfully, to remove Snik’s monster makeup. It was a good night after all.