Middle Grade Fantasy
Chapter I: The Spit Wad
A ball of wet paper slapped the side of John’s face. He caught himself before falling out of his chair but was powerless to stop the hot blood that flooded his cheeks. Craig and his friends exploded with laughter. Cold saliva ran down his cheek and John swallowed hard to keep his lunch inside his stomach. The spit wad had caused him enough embarrassment for one day. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that they wouldn’t be laughing much longer.
Craig Menning was one of the meanest kids at school and even though he had his friends do his dirty work, he was a real bully. He would have someone punch you in the stomach if you ever said that to his face and he would punch you even harder if you ever called him Craig. His nickname was Dice. John didn’t know why and he really didn’t care. He would call him whatever he wanted as long as it meant his friends would keep their fists to themselves.
Unfortunately John Davy was a skinny kid who liked science: the perfect target for a snake like Dice. Most new kids would come into a school and make friends. Dice stole his. He had moved in two months ago but all it had taken was one day of teasing from the cool new kid with the leather jacket and John’s friends had abandoned him.
The teasing hadn’t stopped there. Ever since Dice had learned who John’s father was, his tormenting had become relentless. He might have been able to avoid Dice in the hallways, running from class to class and fleeing school the second the final bell rang but that could only help so much. John’s test scores had placed him in classes advanced for his age, the same classes the older bully was forced to repeat, which meant Dice and his friends could pick on him every day. They were even part of the same after school science program.
“Just what is so funny Mr. Menning?” asked their wrinkled teacher.
“Nothing, Ms. Jessup,” Dice replied as he fumbled to hide the straw shooter.
The woman marched toward him. “What is that you’re hiding over there?” The class shuddered as she passed. It was impossible to tell how she would react to the spit wad. It was impossible to tell how she would react to just about anything. One minute she would be laughing and playing with the kids in her program and the next she would assign you detention for sneezing. She was like one of those dogs you always see on television, the ones that look up at you and let you pet them then suddenly leap up to take a chunk out of your face.
John looked up from the book he had been pretending to read to avoid the stares of his classmates and wiped the moistened projectile from his face, “I-I-It really was nothing, Ms. J-Jessup.” He took a breath and tried to get his stuttering under control. “A bird flew close by and almost hit the window is all.” The small-framed boy glanced over at the bully. He knew he could expect a pounding if Dice and his friend didn’t like his answer.
She spun on her heels and locked John in her sights. “Now how would you know what’s been going on outside that window, Mr. Davy?” She asked, glaring at him through a pair of glasses that would be too small if her eyes weren’t so beady. “You haven’t done anything but keep your nose in that book since you came through that door.”
She snatched the paperback out of his hands. “Just what is so captivating that you cannot seem to pay attention to our program?”
Ms. Jessup held the book away from her face so her old eyes could read the title but before she could get the letters focused Dice chimed in. “Another crazy book about UFOs or something,” he said, inciting a giggle from his classmates.
“T-The Hutchison Effect,” John said softly.
“What was that?” asked Ms. Jessup, “Speak up boy!”
John shifted in his seat before lifting his deep brown eyes. “It, it’s about the Hutchison Effect and the Bermuda Triangle and how—”
“The Bermuda Triangle?” Ms. Jessup snickered. “Preposterous. I’ve lived on this island in ‘the Triangle’ for more than 35 years. I’ve seen more storms here than you’ve had birthdays and I have never seen anything, ANYTHING out of the ordinary.”
“My dad told me hundreds of ships and planes have disappeared in the Triangle and even Christopher Columbus saw strange lights when he sailed through here. He says—“
“Mr. Davy,” She interrupted. “The Bermuda Triangle is no different from anywhere else in the world and anyone who says otherwise should have his or her head examined. The laws of science are the same here as they are everywhere else.” She held John’s book in the air and spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. “I have studied science my entire life and I can tell you these kinds of books do not contain fact. They do not teach; they entertain. This book is full of idiotic theories by people with too much time on their hands too lazy to get real jobs. Reading things like this is a waste of your time and a waste of good paper. John, you are too bright to believe in this hocus pocus.”
John clenched his fists and held his tongue. She would be eating those words soon enough.
“Now,” she continued, “put that thing away and let’s see if we can teach you some real science. I don’t know why on earth a bright boy like you would waste his time reading such a ridiculous book.”
“Because he’s just as nu-nu-nu-nuts as his old man,” Dice chuckled and it seemed to John the whole class laughed with him.
Sefi wasn’t laughing, however. “Knock it off, Dice!” she said slamming her fist into her brother’s arm.
She brushed her dark, pink-streaked hair away from her eyes to steal a glance at John but he had his head down again, this time focusing intently on the corner of his desk.
Ms. Jessup carried on with the rest of the program and as his tormentors began again, John let out a quiet sigh. Ever since Dice had moved in, John had been an outsider. Many days he felt totally alone, like he had a disease and everyone was afraid if they came too close he would infect them. No one seemed to understand what this was doing to him. What made John feel even worse was that no one had even tried.
When the program ended for the day the children quickly crowded the classroom’s exit, eager to leave the school behind them.
John stayed in his seat. He knew if he left now Dice would be there to meet him.
The room was nearly empty when Sefi walked over to his desk. “Sorry about the spit wad. Dice can be a real jerk sometimes.”
John didn’t respond. He frowned at the cover of his textbook, waiting for her to leave. All he wanted was to be left alone. He didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially Dice’s sister.
The boy winced as she slammed her palm onto his desk, her skull-covered bracelets rattling menacingly.
“You know why he pushes you around?” she huffed. “Because he knows you won’t push back.”