VIEWS: 8 PAGES: 10 POSTED ON: 1/29/2011
Junior Short Story – First Place The Recovery By: Alexandra McLaughlin “Heads up!” yelled Zeke Elliott a lean youth of 13 to his friend Daniel Randolph. The two were in a spirited game of soccer. Daniel ducked just in time to see the ball fly over his head into the net. “Goal!” shouted the whole team. Zeke rushed over to Daniel. “Amazing,” Zeke cried. “We are amazing!” They both stamped their feet and shouted “Ace!” If you go back 12 years ago you’ll find these two celebrating their first birthday together. Go forward two years and there they are saying their first word “Ace.”. The two were inseparable both preferring each other to their own siblings. Now let’s get back to the present. “Good game,” said the other team’s captain Landon regretfully. Landon was Zeke and Daniel’s friend too. The soccer game was at school. “You have to admit though, my team isn’t exactly loaded.” The three boys looked over to Landon’s team. Landon was right. The other six boys on his team were Jake, Shane, Martin, Marcus, Damon and Luke Sphinstra. Luke Sphinstra was a capital DORK. One of Zeke’s favourite sayings was “If you looked up dork in the dictionary you would find a picture and biography of Luke.” Damon was not as bad; in fact he used to be a cool kid in Grade 7 hanging out with Zeke, Daniel and Landon. Then it happened. He got a buzz cut and braces. The worst part is the braces were HOT PINK. They made a mistake at the dentist’s office. He wasn’t cool enough to get out of that one. He was now best buddies with Luke. What bugged Zeke and Daniel though was how little he begged to be let back in after he was kicked out officially. That meant all the boys in the gang watching him get his head dunked in a toilet by Zeke. They thought he should have been on his knees for at least another week. “Wow Landon,” said Zeke, “guess you didn’t have luck on your side when they picked the teams.” “Tell ya what,” smirked Daniel, “if you buy us ice cream we will never mention this again.” “Deal.” Landon, Daniel and Zeke shook hands professionally until the chest bumping started. By the time they were done, all of them were good and ready for ice cream at Don’s. The boys were joined by five of the other guys in the “cool” group. Laughing and joking, the group walked into Don’s. “Hello boys.” Don himself greeted them. “Hey Don,” the group chorused back. “I’ve got to go answer a phone call so Ronnie will be serving you,” said Don “and remember four scoops limit. I don’t want no more throwin’ up in this here restaurant.” He was referring to the time when Daniel ate seven scoops of triple chocolate in five minutes. The boys groaned knowing that Zeke’s older brother wasn’t going to give them a free scoop like Don usually did. “Hey twerp.” Ronnie came in from behind the back. “What can I get for you? How about a nice big noogie in front of all your twerp friends?” he smirked with that Elliott twinkle in his eye. Even though it seemed that Zeke and his brother didn’t get along, at home the two were best of friends. Ronnie was the one who taught Zeke the power kick he used in the soccer game. Yes, the two bros were tight, but away from home neither of them wanted to damage their rep. Ronnie reached over like he is about to give Zeke a noogie but then changed his mind and asked, “So what do you guys want?” “I want rocky road!” exclaimed Daniel already drooling. Daniel was one of those people who can eat and eat but never gain a pound. Ronnie went quickly to work as the boys placed their orders. By the time they were done there was a sizable dent in each of the containers of ice cream. Together they claimed the counter and started playing Truth or Dare and being a general nuisance. It had become a kind of game to them to see if they could get whoever else was in the ice cream store to leave. This time the group succeeded in annoying off an elderly couple. The man gave the boys the evil eye while he herded his wife toward the door giving them an excuse to share a high five all around. “Hey Zeke,” warned Daniel, “we better be on our guard. It’s the dork ninjas.” And he burst out laughing. “Ya Daniel, if we don’t take this seriously we might have an infestation of dorks on our hands.” “You know Zeke, I hear that they mate crazily.” The whole group laughed at that one. Luke, Damon and Shane walked in followed by their little ensemble of four more nerds. “Hey Luke,” taunted Landon “I wouldn’t bother coming in here. If you eat too much ice cream your big head might freeze up.” The boys by Landon laughed. Luke didn’t say anything. He walked by with his head bowed and walked over to the counter. “One scoop of rocky road with a waffle cone.” He asked Ronnie in a timid voice. “Hey Daniel,” jeered Mark. “You got the same kind of ice cream as that creep.” Daniel pushed his ice cream away looking revolted. It was still half full but that didn’t seem to matter. “Hey thanks dweeb. Now I have to get a new favourite ice cream flavour.” Daniel got up and started banging his fist on his hand. “Or maybe I should just knock out that sweet tooth of yours.” Luke looked terrified. He knew that Daniel would have no regrets actually knocking out one of his teeth. Ronnie finished scooping the ice cream and Luke turned back to the cash register. “That comes to $2.95.” stated Ronnie. Luke looked into his pockets. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I don’t have enough.” Ronnie threw out the ice cream. “No problem dude,” Ronnie reassured him. “Ya no problem dude,” said Daniel, “in fact you can have the rest of mine.” He reached over and grabbed his ice cream from the counter and dumped it all over Luke. ‘”There, aren’t I nice?” Daniel smirked. Luke ran from the restaurant, dripping ice cream as he ran. His friends comforted him but he kept running. Zeke noticed two lines running from the eyes down. “Hey Zeke,” Zeke looked over to his best friend Daniel. “Oh, Daniel, did you know that dork Luke was actually crying!” Zeke told his friend. “That baby,” Daniel seemed surprised, “Who cries in Grade 8?” “Apparently Luke,” Landon retorted. The three boys walked to Daniel’s house for a sleepover since Daniel’s brother Jack wasn’t home. Daniel was embarrassed by Jack because he was the exact opposite of Daniel, and anyone who wasn’t like Daniel was a dork in Daniel’s point of view. “So Landon Truth or Dare?” asked Daniel. “Truth,” Landon answered. “O.K then who do you think is the ugliest girl in the school?” “Easy, that Clara Schmitt,” replied Landon easily. “I know, eh. She’s so tall but a total klutz and those buck teeth definitely don’t help.” “So Zeke,” Daniel smiled over to his best friend, “Truth or Dare?” “What do you think? Dare of course.” Zeke replied coolly. Zeke was notorious for never backing out of a dare. They say he hadn’t refused one since someone dared him to kiss the janitor in Grade 5. “I dare you to go up to Luke and say ‘I feel ya brother’ in the girliest voice possible!” “You have a sick mind my friend,” Zeke said disgusted, “I’ll do it, but for the rest of this game no one can chicken out of dares.” Landon and Daniel looked at each other thoughtfully. “Fine,” they sighed, “But don’t expect us to like it,” complained Landon. The next day Zeke and Daniel were walking down the hall of Jeaire Elementary School. The boys’ last year in this school would also be the last year of the school. The whole place was falling apart. Half the lights didn’t work and the bathrooms were one big scrawled mess of profanities and things like J+D=LOVE. Zeke’s spotter (the person who makes sure the person doing the dare does it) was Daniel of course. The friends were talking about how Zeke should do the dare. “I think that if I tuck up my shirt like this,” Zeke demonstrated, “and talk in a really girly voice, maybe even do a little shoulder pat that will really freak him out.” “I don’t know. What if Shirley catches you?” Daniel asked concerned. Shirley was the school snitch and would not hesitate to get Zeke in trouble especially since Zeke had turned down her invitation to “go steady”. He said that anyone lame enough to call going out “going steady” did not deserve him. “Chill out!” Zeke laughed. “Luke won’t even know what hit him.” “Good point. Anyway, it’s not like a girl will ever do that to him.’ Daniel jeered. “Hey look,” Zeke tapped Daniel on the shoulder. “There he is; target acquired.” The two looked at Luke with his buzzed cut dark hair, over sized eyes, plaid shirt and flood pants. Zeke took a long deep breath and let it out with a whistle that started high and finished low. He looked back at Daniel winked and adjusted his shirt. “Hey Luke, I feel ya brother.” Zeke squeaked out in a high feminine voice. Luke whirled around and Zeke was surprised to see anger, not embarrassment in his eyes. Luke took one look, squared up and punched Zeke right in the nose The minute after he did it Luke looked down at his fist and whimpered as if he were saying now look what you got me into. Daniel rushed over looking worried. Zeke was on his knees now. “Zeke, hey buddy, talk to me, say anything. Don’t go near the light!!!!” Daniel was in hysterics now. “Dan, Danny-boy,” Zeke murmured through the blood pouring out of his nose. “Yes Zeke?” Daniel said cautiously. “When my dang nose stops bleeding, we are going to get all the guys and hit that little twerp so hard that his grandkids are going to feel it!” Zeke was whispering but that made the threat even more serious. “O.K dude, whatever you say,” Daniel sounded surprised because it was usually him who was the violent one. Zeke stood up slowly, the blood dripping down and splashing on the floor. Daniel helped his pal to the office. Mack was in too but for different reasons. He forced Damon to lick the climber but then Damon’s braces got stuck. It took the strongest teacher in the school to pry him off. Zeke made his way into the office. The school nurse had given him a box of tissues and it was already used up so he was bleeding into the box. “Well, Zeke, what poor sap did you try to beat up this time?” the principal sounded worn out and bored. That was to be expected though considering Zeke’s record in the office. “I didn’t beat anyone up!” Zeke said indignantly, “It was all that Luke kid’s fault.” “Luke huh, I have a hard time believing that. Luke is a straight A student with a perfect record. Are you sure you didn’t provoke him?” the principal asked suspiciously. “I didn’t! I swear, just ask him!” Zeke pleaded desperately. “O.K then, I will give you one chance. If you find Luke and he tells me sincerely that you did not provoke him, that he just decided to punch you, I will let you off.” The principal wasn’t buying it but he decided to see what Luke had to say. “Well what are you waiting for?” Zeke found himself being shooed out of the office. Surprised, he found Luke standing right there. “You TWERP, you were eavesdropping weren’t you?” Zeke was furious. “What kind of kid eavesdrops on someone getting rapped out by the principal!” “I won’t do that,” Luke said. “What!” “I said I won’t do that. You provoked me and that is all I’m going to say.” Luke lifted his chin a little higher. “Well I guess you need a little persuasion,” Zeke held Luke by the collar. “What do you think? Should I punch you or maybe a little swim in the toilet might help clear that head of yours? Oh! I’ve got a better idea. How about you purposely fail a test!” Zeke kept ranting as Luke’s face got paler and paler. “O.K, I’ll do it.” Luke whispered feebly. “What twerp? I didn’t hear you.” Zeke was past all reasoning now. He wasn’t going to let Luke get away with this. Luke was trembling and had a funny expression on his face like he had to go to the bathroom. “I said fine. I will tell the principal that I just randomly punched you.” Luke’s voice could barely be heard over Zeke’s heavy breathing. “O.K then dweeb, and no guilty looks got it?” Zeke threatened. Luke didn’t even look up as he nodded his head. The enemies walked into the office together Zeke with a goofy smile plastered on his face and Luke with his head down and biting his lip. “Well boys,” The principal said, “I hope either Zeke has a good story, or he just walked into a door and is now trying to blame Sphinstra.” The principal looked amused. “Ahem,” Zeke clears his throat, “It goes like this Mr. Grinn. I was going to ask Luke here, for some help on our homework and he just turned around and punched me! Not only that but after he did that he laughed!” “Luke, is this true?” The principal looked at Luke sternly. “Yes,” Luke squawked out. “I’ve been having a bad day. I guess the pressure just got to me.” Zeke smiled. All was going according to his plan and he had no idea Luke would play along so brilliantly. What a suck-up. He probably thought that Zeke would take it easy on him. “So boys, I believe I have thought of a suitable punishment.” The principal’s voice startled the boys out of their daydreams. “Luke will publicly apologize to Zeke at the assembly tomorrow.” The principal looked at the two faces in front of him; Zeke was positively glowing and Luke looked like he had just stepped in something. This just wasn’t right the principal thought but now that he had set the wheels in motion it would be hard to stop them. “…and then the look on the twerp’s face when he heard the punishment. I thought I was going to die of laughter!” Zeke boasted to his friends and brother at Don’s. The group laughed at Zeke’s description of what had happened at the principal’s office. It was the day of the assembly and the boys were waiting with bated breath for the apology. Together they were trying to decide what to do to Luke after the assembly was over. “You know,” said Landon slowly, “I’ve heard on T.V shows about something called reverse psychology.” “Ya so?” Mark asked. “Well,” Landon sped up warming to the idea, “It means that we don’t do anything to him and he freaks out thinking we are going to do something to him!” “Nah,” Daniel rejected the idea, “but I like the ‘reverse’ part.” “How about this? We pretend that since Luke apologized that we really like him!” Zeke exclaimed. “Man, that’s awesome!” “Yup, I know, right, then we lead him into the bathroom and give him a lesson he’ll never forget.” All the boys started murmuring their approval to Zeke’s plan. As the principal would say ‘the wheels are in motion’. *** It was 10 minutes until the assembly and their principal Mr. Grinn pulled Luke and Zeke aside. “You know boys, if something about this doesn’t seem right to you, you both know that if you confess now it will be less trouble than if we find out later.” Zeke noticed how careful Mr. Grinn was to not mention any names even though if someone should be in trouble it should be Zeke. Mr. Grinn was always an assured kind of man, but right now he looked at both of them with distrust. Zeke felt a twinge of guilt because Mr. Grinn had given him more chances than he probably deserved. Luke just stood there taking it as his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he tried to blink back tears. “Well, if neither of you has anything to say, then let’s get to that assembly.” Mr. Grinn took a long hard look at both of them, sighed, and led them down the hall. Zeke and Luke were going earlier since they would open the assembly. Neither of them talked, both of their heads were whizzing around with very different thoughts. Zeke was jubilant and was looking at Luke with a disturbing look on his face. In his head Zeke saw Luke’s face getting dumped in a toilet playing over and over again. Luke saw a different scene in his head. He kept looking around scared like he was expecting Zeke’s gang to jump him now. He wondered if this would he the last time he would see the hallway with both eyes and no stitches. It made him especially nervous because of how happy Zeke looked. He definitely had more spring in his step. Luke looked over to the wall. There was one of those inspirational posters that really just make you feel guilty. It said “Do what’s right. It’s that simple.” Yeah right, thought Luke. They don’t know middle school. Luke and Zeke took seats at the front of the gym. Their school was fairly big since three towns drained into it. There was no one else in the gym yet. Luke turned to Zeke and asked, “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” Zeke turned to him and gave him a glare that obviously meant don’t talk to me you little twerp and don’t you even think of bailing out. Luke shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Zeke was double checking that he had the plan right for the “Ultimate dunking”, as he and his friends were calling it. After a lot of arguing it was decided it would be tomorrow. They needed him to be fully on their side first. The gym started to fill up in the usual way with the little kids filing in as silent as statues and the Gr. 7s and 8s yelling and whooping like the world was going to end. Zeke started grinning and waving to his buddies in the back. Luke elbowed him but what did Zeke care; he was a teacher loving twerp. He kept waving and making faces at his friends. Luke elbowed him again and Zeke elbowed him right back. What was the guy’s problem? His friends started laughing at something behind him. He shrugged to say what? They just kept pointing and laughing. Luke started pulling on his shirt. Zeke whirled around. “WHAT!” he screamed in Luke’s face. Luke pointed at Mr. Grinn who had been standing there the whole time. “Oh, hi sir!” beamed Zeke not losing his cool one bit, “What can I do for you?” “Well you can get up on stage. It’s time for Luke’s apology.” Luke stood up shakily as he and Zeke walked toward the stage. Luke being Luke tripped on the stairs causing the gym to explode into laughter. Luke’s face went beet red. Zeke positioned himself on centre stage. There is no way to describe the apology that happened. The kids in the gym found it absolutely hilarious that little Luke Sphinstra was apologizing to Zeke Elliott. Luke could barely be heard over the gales of laughter. Zeke was thinking how perfect this was, more things for him and the gang to pretend to be sorry about. The whole thing barely lasted two minutes, but it had an impact on their lives that they didn’t even realize yet. Luke and Zeke went off stage, the audience starting to calm down. Zeke looked at Luke grinned and gave him a pat on the back and took him to go sit with his friends (an ultimate honour). All through the assembly the group tried to involve Luke into all their conversations. “Hey Luke what do you think of Betsy’s pathetic dress?” “You know Luke you are almost as buff as Mark!” “Wow, Luke, we should have hung out with you more often before!” For the rest of the day they gradually gained Luke’s trust. He knew he shouldn’t trust them, but they were just so funny he couldn’t help it. Now that he wasn’t the one getting picked on he could see why everyone else liked them. There was something about them that just made you want to follow. So when Luke was invited to go to the county soccer game that night there was no hesitation in his yes. When Luke started walking to his house from school all the boys yelled good-bye and then headed their separate ways. Zeke and Daniel walked the last stretch together. “Hey Zeke do you need a ride?” asked Daniel. “No thanks Ronnie is going to drive me,” “Are you sure that is such a good idea?” reasoned Daniel, “Ronnie isn’t the most accomplished driver.” It was true. Ronnie had just gotten his licence. “It’ll be fine Dan, what’s the worst that can happen?” Zeke replied light- heartedly. “Do you really want me to answer that?” “Hey!” The two boys raced each other home. Zeke waltzed in dumping his backpack on the floor. “Any homework sweetie?” “No, Mom, leave me alone.” Zeke said this knowing that there were three pages of math homework but he figured he’d just use the old my homework blew away. Mr. Grinn was a sucker for that one. Zeke spent most of evening in front of the T.V. Ronnie burst into the room. “Hey bro you ready to go!” “Yup,” Zeke replied, “You have the car keys?” “Yup,” said Ronnie “Be careful boys!” their mother called from the kitchen. “We will Mom,” the boys shouted over their shoulders as they headed out the door. Zeke got in the passenger seat and slammed the door. “Hey be careful buddy,” warned Ronnie. “Don’t want those old airbags going off.” “Yeah right Ronnie. I doubt they even work anymore.” retorted Zeke. Ronnie turned on the radio and blasted it as they pulled down the street. Zeke unrolled the window and waved to a girl on the street. She ignored him. Ronnie grabbed his shoulder. “What are you doing man? You know Mom wouldn’t approve and anyway you’ll ruin my rep.” “Oh bug off Ronnie.” Zeke started climbing farther out the window. “I mean it Zeke. Get down!” Ronnie sounded angry now. “Maybe I won’t!” Zeke hoisted himself up until he was sitting on the window ledge with the rest of his body out of the car. Ronnie made a grab for him but in doing so he turned the wheel. They crashed into a telephone pole. Zeke went flying out of the car and all went black. *** “Honey, please wake up. Oh look! He’s opening his eyes! Welcome back to the real world honey.” Zeke drowsily opened his eyes taking in the pristine whiteness of the hard angles in some kind of hospital room. The florescent glare hurt his eyes so he closed them again. “Hi Mom, where’s Ronnie?” Zeke was surprised to hear his voice scratchy and gravelly. When his mom didn’t reply right away he opened his eyes and took in the worried and sad expression on his mother’s face. “He’s not dead is he?” His voice stayed down low not betraying his panic. “No, no, not yet,” “NOT YET!” Zeke cried. “Yes, well he is in bad shape darling. The air bags on our old car didn’t work and he had his seatbelt off trying to grab you.” Zeke sat stunned. It was his fault, all his fault that Ronnie was lying in emergency. A sweep of nausea crept up his body; he puked and then passed out. When he awoke a day later he found his friends staring at his face. Mark looked like he wanted to poke it. “Ew, that’s gross!” “His mom said that was permanent.” “Hey shut up, he’s waking up!” That was Daniel’s voice Zeke realized and he opened his eyes. “Hey guys!” he rasped. All the boys jumped back. “Wow dude, your mom said you were going to sound different but I didn’t realize you would sound like an old man with a cold!” Daniel was staring at him incredulously. The boys kept their distance. “Hey I’m not going to bite.” Zeke said but even he didn’t believe himself. Only Daniel edged closer. “So, uh Zeke, we haven’t done that thing to Luke we, uh, wanted to save it but now, uh, we might just want to do it anyway.” “No!” Zeke exclaimed in his monster voice, even Mark flinched. “Well, Zeke, you have a broken arm,” Daniel told him. Zeke looked at his arm in surprise. He started to panic, what else had he done to himself and not realized. The screen beside him started to beep and a nurse came in. She shooed out the other boys and turned to Zeke. “What can I do for you?” “May I have a mirror?” The nurse looked at him oddly but granted his request. Zeke peered into the mirror and gasped. There was a huge rash thing on his throat; there were 6 cuts all done up in purple stitches and to top it off a bald spot from where they had to shave part of his head. He sunk into his pillow wishing this nightmare would be over. Eventually it was, well, the hospital part. It was a couple of weeks since he’d been out of hospital and his friends had only visited him once again, but Luke had seen him almost every other day. Luke had been more of a friend than his entire gang lately. He remembered Luke saying that he knew how it felt to be isolated. Zeke was scared about going to school. Even though the stitches were gone the scars remained, the same with the bald spot, the cast and the bad voice. The doctor said his voice would be like that for the rest of his life. Zeke would be walking to school with Daniel but he wasn’t exactly thrilled about it. Obviously, Daniel wasn’t either because he ditched him. Zeke started to school and he was halfway when he met up with Luke. “How’s your brother?” “I don’t know,” replied Zeke. “Isn’t that terrible?” Luke looked at him sympathetically. They walked the rest of the way in silence. The day was horrible. Everyone except Luke flinched when they saw or heard him and even Mr. Grinn looked a little shocked at first. Zeke was out of there the minute the bell rang. He didn’t wait for anyone. He just ran. Meanwhile after school Zeke’s old gang was meeting. “I say we do that thing to Luke tomorrow at lunch and throw Zeke into the bargain!” Daniel remained silent. Without Zeke he was nothing and he wanted to get back at Zeke for that yet he couldn’t. They had been friends too long. So as they continued plotting, Daniel remained silent torn between two sides. The next morning Zeke was truly happy. He had found out last night that Ronnie was starting to recover! Zeke still hadn’t gotten over the guilt and he wanted to say he was sorry. He grabbed his backpack and raced out the door. He would try to find Luke’s house. He turned where Luke always turned and looked for a house that had Luke’s bike in front. It was a shack, O.K maybe a little more than a shack. Zeke was struck dumb. Luke came out of the house. Zeke asked him straight out “Why don’t you care about my face or my voice?” Luke replied by pulling his shirt up to reveal scars from someone or something hitting him. “I got taken away from those people. This is my foster home. I still have the scars from my old life. I know how it feels to have scars.” “Fair enough,” said Zeke and told him the news about his brother. Luke’s face lit up. “That’s great Zeke!” both of them felt happy and glad of the load off their chests as they walked to school. Zeke’s happiness diminished when he saw Daniel racing toward him. “Zeke! At lunch they are going to Ultimate Dunk you and Luke! Run away while you’ve got the chance!” “No way,” Zeke set his jaw and went to school anyway. *** Daniel looked at the clock nervously; Zeke had been gone all morning. The bell rang, he rushed to the bathroom and there was an amazing sight. Every boy who had ever been bullied by either Daniel’s gang or another bully was there. Daniel could hear his gang coming down the hall now. He glanced at the wall of kids in front of the bathroom when Landon spotted them. The group halted. “What do you twerps think you’re doing?” “Standing up,” growled Zeke. Daniel looked at the two groups. Landon’s gang was hopelessly outnumbered but they kept going. “Hey Danny-boy, which side are you on?” he scoffed. Daniel looked from his best friend to the gang he had always felt protected in and then, he moved. “I’m on the Stand-Up side!” he announced. Zeke smiled, the Stand-Up team smiled, Luke smiled and Zeke knew he was fully recovered.
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