“I’m very pleased to share this unpublished short story with my blog subscribers, social media followers, and website visitors, before releasing it to the widespread literary world. Please give it a read and leave any comments at the bottom. I hope you enjoy it.” – Richard S. Todd
A Short Story by Richard S. Todd
1979. So what could I remember from 1979? I was only a kid, after all. I remember that Carter was the US President and Trudeau was the Prime Minister of Canada. I remember that the news was almost always talking about some kidnapped people in Iran.
I remember the house in Newmarket where I lived with my mom. And that I went to Meadowbrook Public School. And that the bathroom floor at school smelled like bleach and piss. Yeah, that’s a pretty vivid memory. My face was down there enough times.
And I remember President John too. I sniffed that floor courtesy of him and four other big boys in my Grade 8 class. We were all the same age but they already looked like men. Their names stuck with me as clearly as their faces: Two Johns, a Ron, a Danny, and a Barry, all good-looking by most standards, handsome and athletic and well-spoken. They were at the top of the school food chain and were already dating and growing facial hair. One of the Johns was the class president, as popular as you’d expect him to be.
President John was their leader, and he was the first to push me into that washroom, watching as the other boys clawed and punched at me with their big hands. I skittered across the floor, trying to get away, feeling as trapped as rabbit in a wolf’s den.
The big boys tugged on my shirt. They pulled at my Toughskins. I kicked wildly, trying to prevent them from getting a grip on me. My mind raced in horror and anger. I had heard stories of Bad Things happening to young boys in washrooms. Was this it? Was a Bad Thing about to happen to me?
They towered over me, looking down with hungry, menacing eyes and open, smiling mouths. I felt like a squirming mess on a dinner plate; a cowering, festering sobbing lump of a little boy with little boy hands and a little boy head and little boy privates, all of which were about to be claimed by the ravenous horde above.
President John pushed through the sweaty, hungry faces of the others. He knelt down, seeming to enjoy the power of the moment as his bright eyes met my own bulging pair. He pursed his lips and let a faint whisper escape in between:
I shrieked and fought back with everything I had. Now I knew this had to be a Bad Thing. Mama warned about little boys having their underwear pulled down and bigger boys touching their privates. She said little boys had to be careful and not get into those situations. She said that I better not be one of those little boys. Those little boys make Mama mad.
I couldn’t make Mama mad. She would blame me if these boys hurt me and left me naked. And then everyone would laugh. And everyone would be on their side. Because I was small, because I was different, because I didn’t belong, I somehow deserved it.
One of the hands ripped my shirt. Mama’s voice sliced through my brain, drowning out the grunts of the big boys: I can’t afford a barber and have to cut your hair myself. How do you expect me to buy you a new shirt? I fought harder. I couldn’t make her buy me a new shirt. I just couldn’t.
Suddenly the door opened with a long, drawn out groan, and in the doorway stood the basketball coach. I nearly cried from such deep relief. His name I don’t remember fully, I think it started with a B. He was a really big guy, a hard face with a big bushy moustache. The big boys let me drop to the floor as Mr. B’s eyes quickly surveyed the scene before falling on me.
He smiled. Those eyes brightened, and then twinkled with all the blue of distant, frozen star.
My stomach dropped.
Mr. B. smirked and walked over to the big tub, pressing his foot on the bar. A weak stream of water dribbled over his hands.
“Giving him the business, eh boys?” he said, cleansing himself in the gentle cascade. The boys laughed in reply, clearly relieved.
Mr. B. grabbed some paper towel. “Hurry up, it’s almost bell.” He dried his hands and looked at me one more time, beaming as if this treatment was some sort of rite and, somehow, I deserved it.
Then he was gone. The boys looked back at me, practically drooling. To compare them to jackals would be too easy, but it’s all I can think of. They fell on me and I punched and kicked in all directions. Their laughter drowned out my screams and sobs. I couldn’t let them take me. I couldn’t face anyone if that happened. Everyone would know. Everyone would laugh.
They held me down. I struggled with everything my thin body could muster but they were too many, too strong. They turned me over into that smell of bleach and piss. Now that they couldn’t see my face, I let myself break a little, and sobbed.
President John: “Get his pants down.”
I shrieked one last, long time, but was beaten in volume by the bell.
“Shit!” President John spat. “There’s always tomorrow, homo. And every day after that.”
They dropped me again, lingering for a moment before leaving for class. I sobbed into bleach and piss until the combined smells left an imprint in my brain.
I’m not a homo. I’m not!
Neither my teacher nor the detention monitor ever asked about the bruises or my ripped shirt.