Dunce, Douche, and Duped This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

June 1, 2017
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A stupid man once said life existed in three stages: Dunce, Douche, and Duped. That man was me, but I’m not a man. It started in detention with Billy Leroy, head of the Immortals, one of the head gangs in the city. I had to have Mrs. Tumbit that day for my advisor. She usually slept through it, but if you tried to leave before three, she’d wake up and hound you right there. It was like she had some clock inside her. Unfortunately for me, I had decided to turn around for an extra hot dog when I slammed into Billy Leroy’s lunch tray. Now, I was stuck kissing a crude drawing of a penis on the desk.

“Did ya’ really think you were going to get away after doing what you did?”

Tasting the desk wasn’t really my thing, but it was better than being thrown in the dumpster. I mumbled a bit before Leroy picked up my head to face him.

“I’ll say it again, Jackson. You think the world just revolves around you or something?” Leroy leaned down close to my face. I could smell hot dog grease on his breath. Looks like somebody got extras.

“You know, Jackson, I’m getting pretty sick of you walking around here thinking you’re some kind of biggie, but let me tell you this,” He got closer, and I leaned back. “Just because your brother left you in charge of what’s left of your little gang at the high school doesn’t make you any better.”

I grunted in response. Leroy didn’t like that, and he tilted my head and smashed my face down again. Being me certainly had its perks.

“Now, don’t you be getting all smartsy with me, Jackson. We all know you ain’t got dope to be riding high on. You’re just some weeny little baby boy clutching his big brother’s cape.”

I managed to move my head slightly under Leroy’s grip. While he kept mouthing off at me, I stared at the light trickling in from the window. The room was empty except for us and Mrs. Tumbit. Figures, it was Friday. Who’d be sane enough to get detention with Mrs. Tumbit on a Friday? Several other desks were like mine, marked and bleeding with ink. Some had masterpieces rivaling Picasso while others were just more penis drawings. I couldn’t smell the room, but I could feel my blood running down. My nose was bleeding. No matter how strange it was, the room felt peaceful.

As Leroy picked up my head the door slammed open. Mrs. Tumbit didn’t move, and before I knew it, a hand grabbed my shirt and pulled me out of Billy’s grip.

“Oi! Come on Bill, leave him alone!” The room spun for a moment before I tried to steady myself. I grabbed onto the corner of a desk and grazed a dried piece of gum. I could hear Leroy yelling.

“Oh come on Artie! This little runt smashed into my tray!”

“Well it ain’t right to just slam the poor kid’s face into the desk. Look at him! He’s bleeding!”

“Aw, piss off Artie!”

“It’s three now! Tumbit isn’t going to tear into you. Just get to the arcade. I’m sure the guys are waiting for you.” Billy Leroy sneered at me and before he left, he pushed the back of my head. Artie sighed. I looked down at my hands and winced. Slamming a guy’s head sure does hurt his neck.

“I’ll go get you some tissues or something,” Artie said with a smile before heading out the door. At that moment, Mrs. Tumbit woke up, bleary eyed and befuddled.

“Huh? Oh, yeah, um detention dismissed. You can go home now.” She mumbled the last part before grabbing her bag and stumbling out the door. Artie let her past before making his way toward me. He sat down on the desk beside me before handing me the tissues.

“Hey, umm yeah sorry for my brother being a jerk.” I pressed the tissue up to my nose, flinching slightly at the pain. I peered my eyes at him, but I didn’t get the chance to speak until he interrupted me.

“Yeah, my brother’s a bit of a jerk. You know? I mean obviously, you do, but you get what I mean, right?” He waved his arms around, and I shook my head. “But like, I feel bad for letting him do this stuff to you. He’s the gang leader, but beating up the rival’s kid brother? That’s just low.”

“So then, why?” He looked at me weirdly. “Why’re you giving me tissues and stuff?”

“I said it before, bro, but I guess that’s just my brother’s fault for slamming your head in a bit too much. Look, I don’t like beating up people, and I don’t really like being part of my brother’s gang. I’m on your side here.”

         He smiled at me, but I still felt a little uneasy. What were the chances the kid brother of the guy who had been beating me up was any different? Still, I held out my hand.

“My name’s Rory…” I mumbled. The nose still hurt.  “Rory Jackson.”

Artie looked relieved and took my hand. “I’m Artie.

**

After waiting for my bloody nose to heal up, Artie drove me back home. It became the norm soon that he’d pick me up after school to make sure his brother wouldn’t jump me. I still found myself clutching my bag and seatbelt in the car though, making sure that nobody was outside of the car door before I went out. I couldn’t trust him. His brother had been beating me up for a good part of the year, and he had to have known something about it. If not to me, to other kids, because Billy Leroy certainly had his pick.

One day, Artie asked if we could go somewhere after school. I clutched my bag closer to my chest. I knew it. This was the moment when he and his brother and his gang were coming to beat me up. I wanted to leave, but unfortunately we were already in the car, driving to some place I didn’t know, and I was too chicken to jump out. My head felt numb when I nodded, but Artie seemed happy. Of course he was going to be happy, beating up weak, dumb prey was going to be the time of his life, just like his brother. I couldn’t see his motive though.

I must have stared at my backpack strap the whole ride because when I blinked Artie was telling me to get out of the car. The sky had turned from blue to orange, and it felt warmer than usual. I got out of the car and looked around. It was like a new world, a world who knows how many minutes away from home. The trees were a rich green, and I could smell dew drops from the rain last night. We were still near town. A squirrel climbed a tree nearby, and the pebbled stones crunched underneath feet. But none of that compared to what I saw before me.

We were on a cliff, a plateau whatever you called it, that stepped out like a pedestal. I stepped closer, and looking down, I saw the whole town before me. The donut shop, the bookstore, my house. A warm ray tickled my arm, and before me was the most beautiful sight I ever saw. Tucked in between two trees, the sun waved its last rays of orange, yellow, and auburn throughout the whole town.

“Sight takes your breath away, right?” I glanced over and saw Artie leaning on the railway. He turned around to smile at me. The sun made his hair look browner, but lighter in a way. Richer.

“I found this place when I first got my driver’s license. It was after my mom remarried, and I didn’t really want to be in that house.”

“Wow…I never thought this place could exist,” Artie chuckled.

“Yeah, I didn’t think so either.”

“My brother doesn’t really let me explore that much around town, so I don’t even know about places like these.”

There was something peaceful here on this cliffside, and I felt my shoulders relax. It was like, nobody could jump me out here. Nobody could hurt me or do anything. No dumpsters. No gang.

“Rory,  I came here because I wanted to tell you something.”

“Mmh?”

“I like you.”

My heart stopped, and the wind blew by. I stared at Artie sitting on the railway. The only sound I could hear was Artie’s voice.
“Ever since you left your brother’s gang. You don’t have to get into fights anymore or beat some person up one or another.” He mumbled the last part and started fidgeting with his hands.

“I’m not like you Rory. I’m not. I sit there and beat up people because I don’t wanna’ get beat up but I end up beating up people. You don’t.  You don’t beat up people. You left, but I can’t because I’m…” He didn’t end the sentence. “And my brother beats you up. Your nose gets busted up nearly everyday, and my brother’s just out to get you...and you just. Get it. You accept it. ” I stared at him, but I didn’t know how to respond. He ran his hair through his hair. "I’m not good at this, but I thought you were brave-"

“Brave?!” I choked out. I wanted to stop believing this was real, to wake up to my alarm clock “You think I like getting beat up?!”

“No! Look, I know this can’t be real, but I’d hear my brother plan something to beat you up, I’d try to stop him! I’d try! And it stopped a couple, but I when there when they’d sneak behind my back! I’m sorry! But when I was coming to get my brother and heard him beating you up, I knew that was when I had to stop him! I wish I had done it earlier, and I know I’m a coward for not trying hard enough! I’m sorry.” His eyes pleaded with me, but I was too enraged to feel anything else.

“Sorry isn’t going to cut it! Do you know how it feels, to get beaten every day, and to have nobody help you? To go home and see your brother look down on you? And to top it all off, the guy who did nothing turned out to be gay who liked me?! I’m going to be a laughing stock!”

Artie’s eyes glazed over, and I knew I had done it. I didn’t feel any sort of pride for it, and the moment that word left my mouth a stone of guilt set in my stomach. But my body shook, and tears rolled down my cheeks. Quivering, I turned my heels and ran down the path we had come up from.

         My feet pounded the stones as I ran down the path. I didn’t really know where I was going, but I just needed to get away. I had my phone so I could just call somebody or use google maps, but I needed to be alone. After I had passed a couple hundred trees, a car rolled up. It was some guys in my brother’s gang. They had smug looks on their faces, and the guy in the driver’s seat pulled up his glasses.

“Hop in, bro.” I had never been called ‘bro’ by them before, but I took it.

That night, I found out what they were doing on the mountain. They were keeping watch of me since I had been hanging out with Artie for a while.

“It was for you, little bro. You’re not in the gang anymore, so I can’t protect you as much as I used to.  We needed to teach that Leroy a lesson for beating up my little brother and our family, am I right?” My brother waved his arms around like it was common sense, but I felt couldn’t respond. “Oh come on, Rory. It’s not like that guy wasn’t innocent. We’re in gangs; we’re rivals. Loss happens on both sides.”

I could only stare at my brother blankly before turning my back to him. I was sick of this. A couple of guys started laughing behind me.

“You know him? Yeah, he was being a little gay, so his brother made sure his boyfriend went bye bye.”

         From behind the school, Billy Leroy came with his gang to beat me up. I was alone. Never before had I realized how much I enjoyed his presence beside me before then. I was beaten within an inch of my life, and it wasn’t until the sun was setting when Leroy and his buddies were told that another gang war was going to start with my brother. His buddies ran off, but Leroy spit at my face.

“I would kill you, too, but I’m not that kind of person.” For a moment, I saw Leroy’s lip quiver, and I had never felt so empty before. Leroy kicked me one last time in the shin before running off to his pals to beat up my brother.

Here I was now, staring up at the auburn sky. I was stupid for thinking he was a bad guy. I was a jerk calling him that. I didn’t believe that the gang would get involved in my life again, but when I turned my head to stare at the half sun, and felt it radiate warm rays like it did those days ago, I couldn’t feel any warmth from it anymore.






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