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He pointed the gun at John’s back and a tear fell down his burning face. Looking around to make sure no one else was behind the school, he breathed deeply. His long black hair fell over his eyes, partly covering his circular glasses. This was meant to happen. John instigated fights with Eli for years. Eli finding John alone behind the school proved to Eli that he must go through with it. If he was going to do this, he knew it must be quick so he could get home to do his chores. His mother expected him home right after school usually. He cocked the gun and John flinched turning his body around. John began to giggle, at a loss for words, until he realized Eli was serious. He began to shake his head side to side and walk backwards slowly. Eli thrived off of the fear in his eyes. He felt superior for once in his life.
“I’ll show you who’s boss.” He pulled the trigger and instantly the force of the gun was so overwhelming, he fell to the ground ten feet behind his victim. Eli had aimed for his chest, but the weight of the gun caused his arm to shake. He stared at John lying on the pavement. Shocked by what he had done, he jumped to his feet and began to run with trembling knees, shoving the weapon in his pocket. John lay there shriveled up in fetal position with a bullet wound to the leg. As he ran farther from the scene, John’s cries became louder and louder. It was driving Eli crazy, he couldn’t get it out of his head.
Hurrying home, he tried his best not to be later than he already was. He saw both his house and the tree fort and impulsively made the decision not to go home. Making his way through bushes and branches, he didn’t notice the gun slip out of his pocket and land on the ground. Climbing up the tree to his one safe place, he shut the door behind him. His father helped him build it when he was a child and later forgot about it. It was far into the woods behind his house.
Sitting as far back as possible from the door, he curled up in a corner. He lay on the bed he had made out of towels and blankets when he was young, hoping to escape his parents’ constant yelling and fighting. He shut his eyes, blasted his Ipod, and tried not to replay the day in his head.
Beep, beep, beep, beep…he slammed his hand down on the snooze button. It was going to be another torturous day at school. He dragged himself out of bed. He pulled on clothes haphazardly and looked at his reflection in the mirror. He saw a huge stain in the middle of his shirt and made an uneasy smirk. I’m forced to clean everything in the house and she can’t fulfill her one job to do the laundry? Searching through his drawers to find one clean shirt, all he could find was a plain white t-shirt. He grabbed his bag and flew down the stairs. Looking at the kitchen table, he saw nothing there.
He heard his mother walking down the staircase and he turned around to give her a nasty look.
Was it too much too ask for clean clothes and breakfast? The flow of air she brought in with her reeked of alcohol. He rolled his eyes, snatched a cereal bar from the cabinet, and was on his way to school. He slammed the door behind him.
Eli saw the large yellow bus in front of him with its flashing red light. He sprinted for the bus just making it in time. He gave the bus driver a warm smile and slowly turned to face the seats. He walked past the first six or seven rows full of kids to the open seats in the back. Tripping over a leg on his way, he knew who the culprit was before even looking. John Glass. Holding onto his dignity by a thread, he got up and took refuge in a seat far from the rest of the kids.
“Forget something loser?” When he noticed he forgot his backpack, he looked at John and ended up getting smacked in the face with it. Mid-air, half of his books and pencils fell out rolling all over the bus. Knowing John stole something from his backpack, he chose not to make a scene.
“Hey You!” The bus driver yelled looking straight at John. “If I see that one more time, you won’t be taking this bus no more.”
“But Sir, I was just returning his backpack that he forgot when he accidentally fell.”
“Don’t get smart with me boy!” Fortunately the bus ride was short and on his way off he thanked the bus driver. He seemed to be Eli’s only friend.
Walking cautiously down the hall, he was shoved into lockers.
“Can’t stand up for yourself? Too bad the bus driver isn’t here. Come on Eli, fight back.” Eli was used to this by now. By the time he finally slipped away, he walked into his first class, ten minutes late.
“Eli, you’re late.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
“You can apologize in detention tomorrow.” He quietly took his seat next to his lab partner.
“So how far are you into the project?” Eli asked.
“Not far, mind handing me those? Eli did as she wished and followed along her commands. He couldn’t help notice her rude facial expressions towards him when he tried to converse with her about the project they both were supposed to work on.
His next few classes were quick and easy until English came around.
“Good Afternoon Kids, hand in your papers please.” Eli opened his backpack and took out his folder. He couldn’t believe it. His four-page paper was missing. He glazed his eyes over to John and noticed him handing in a paper that didn’t belong to him. Eli knew this because he had written it. He raised his hand to tell his teacher.
“No excuses Eli, you’re a strong writer but either you have it or you don’t. I’ll have to give you an incomplete,” his teacher said harshly. Eli was getting angrier by the minute. He didn’t think things could get any worse until lunch. He waited on line for his mashed potatoes and chicken nuggets like all the other students. He was on his way to the table next to the trashcans where he sits alone everyday when he saw John and his friends laughing and subtly pointing at Eli. He knew John was going to mess with him.
“Did you like my essay? It wasn’t great but I’m sure I’ll do better than you.” John spoke. Eli kept walking in hopes he would be left alone.
“You can’t walk away from me!” John yelled. He followed Eli to the table, grabbed his lunch, and dumped Eli’s mashed potatoes and chicken nuggets onto him. Eli now, fuming with anger, could not take it anymore. He was through with taking morning beatings and bad grades for no reason.
Eli ran to his locker and packed his backpack. He snuck off of campus and walked home. He slowly turned the keys to unlock the door, trying to talk himself out of it. He could not. He threw his backpack on the ground and stomped into his dad’s office. He looked around at all of his father’s badges and achievement awards. On his desk was his high school yearbook. Eli began to look through it. His father was the captain of his football team and now a police officer. His dad was always so hard on him about not being an athlete or a tough guy.
Until Eli was nine, his father would play catch with him but Eli had no interest in the game, resulting in his father having no interest in him. That year he made an extra effort to be something he wasn’t. He tried out for his elementary school flag football team. Knowing he would get made fun of, he wanted to make his father proud. Rather than being proud that he tried, his father got so angry that he hit Eli in the face, resulting in a little scar above his eyebrow covered by his hair. Eli was always trying to make amends with his father. Until now.
Opening the closet, he stuck his hand in the back to grab the box containing the weapon. He slowly opened it. He took it out of its box and saw the imprint it left on the soft gray velvet surrounding. He held it in his hand for a few moments, and then stuck it in his pocket. Eli stormed out of his father’s office and out the door of his house. He ran to the back of the school so he had just enough time to catch his prey.
Suddenly, Eli felt a knock on the door of his tree house. He immediately turned off his Ipod.
“Eli! You must get down from here, there have been accusations and we need to talk.” Eli slowly opened the door and looked at his mother.
“What do you want mom, I haven’t done anything.” Eli’s mother’s body looked cramped in the doorway.
“Eli, there was a shooting at your school today. Did you know about it?” He saw her eyes travel along the ground and place themselves on the gun vaguely hidden under leaves. Eli, at a loss for words, shoved his mother and began to run, he didn’t know where, but he just ran as fast as he could.
“Eli! Eli!” he heard his mother yelling. Adrenaline surged through him as he moved his body. He realized he should have been running towards the woods rather than town but he couldn’t stop the momentum and turn around. His body in motion was all that mattered, drowning out his thoughts.
But his breath couldn’t last forever and thoughts crowded in again. Was John in the hospital? If John was alive, he would no doubt rat out Eli, in fact, he had. He stopped in his tracks, panting. How long would it be till they found him? All he could think about was his father, the fierce color of pink his face turns when he’s angry. The rough surface of the back of his hand being thrust against his face. Eli always imagined steam coming out of his father’s ears.
He heard faint sirens in the background. He began to run, but his breath was becoming short; he didn’t know how much longer he could keep this up. He heard the sirens becoming louder as anger turned to fear. He slowed down for a minute to catch his breath when he heard…
“Hands where I can see them!” He stopped and did as he was told. He lifted his head to see four policemen surrounding him. How could they find him so easily?
“Is that Joe’s kid?” he heard knowing that his father would be humiliated. He knew this would be the most disappointing moment in his father’s life. Eli wanted to do anything to avoid seeing his father at the station.
He felt himself getting handcuffed and as he turned around, he interlocked eyes with his father.