It was the first day of high school and the only different thing about the bus route this year was that they didn’t have to transfer to another bus at the high school. Brock was actually relieved school was starting since his summer had been a very miserable, seven day work week. It was a long, tough, and worthless summer. Brock was so exhausted from his lack of summer break that his plan these days was to go into school and sleep all day. So what if his grades were terrible? For one, they were never any good in the first place and for another, his mission this year was to teach mom and dad a lesson. He wanted them to feel responsible for taking his summer away and he wanted to exert revenge by keeping his grades just barely afloat. He would use this as leverage to ensure their little escapade never happened again. The tables would soon be turned, and it would be he, Brock Patrick, they all would respect on a bended knee. Again, Brock had grown to be a very self-entitled teenager.
So there he went to first period, which was physical science with a teacher named Mr. Barnes, a very erratic looking man with light blonde hair. One of Brock’s worst middle school tormentors, Roberto Randle, was in this class as well. Randle spent the last two weeks of middle school taking every chance he had at humiliating Brock in front of everyone after he found out Brock was serving internal suspension for claiming to be on the way to the football meeting the previous school year.
“Look, boys and girls, it’s the wannabe football player!” he would yell to the crowd during lunch and in the hallways in between classes. Each announcement followed with immense laughter. Worse yet, Randle would typically wait until a teacher on lunch duty wasn’t looking and either put food down Brock’s shirt or trip him with the help of a friend as he entered the cafeteria.
Unfortunately for Brock, the only seat available to him when he entered the classroom today was the one right next to Randle. Brock had no choice now but to sit next to this pet peeve.
“Football practice tonight, Patrick?” asked Randle a little loudly after he turned and saw who it was sitting next to him. A head or two turned and looked at the pair of them.
“You know I’m not on the team,” said Brock, looking right ahead, trying to phase out Randle the best he could.
“What about basketball season?” continued Randle, his voice getting louder so people would start to take notice. “You’re not going to try to be a basketball player again, are you?”
“Probably not,” said Brock, now studying the empty blackboard, now having to relive a painful flashback in which he went to only one basketball practice last year when trying out for the eighth grade team. That sport too, didn’t work out since he was so bad he didn’t even bother going back to another practice.
“Because you do know that you won’t go back after poorly attempting a practice, right?” teased Randle while more eyes in the classroom now fixed on Brock.
“I’ll probably just do my own thing, I guess,” said Brock to the blackboard, turning a bright shade of red and praying Mr. Barnes would enter the room and start class already. “You know, something innovative.”
“Why were you working so much this summer?” asked Randle, pounding Brock’s shoulder hard, causing him to wince. “It seemed like every time I went to my brother and sister-in-law’s you were outside cutting grass or doing something. You missed a few spots, you know? If I were your dad I would have made you stay out there until it was done right. But of course he probably knows you aren’t capable of doing so and he obviously spent an hour or two fixing your mistakes.”
“Something to do,” Brock muttered quietly. “Keeping busy, you know.”
“You’re neither an outdoor type nor an outdoor worker, you were grounded. Come on, tell the truth, Brock” sang Randle loudly as others around them began laughing silently. “Not from what I’ve seen anyway. Are you good for anything? Come on, Brock, tell me how you can possibly contribute to American society.”
“I’m sure there’s something,” said Brock nonchalantly, trying his hardest to block out the buzzing laughter of the others.
“Welcome to physical science,” interrupted the voice of Mr. Barnes, who was walking swiftly to the front of the classroom where a podium stood and taking a seat on a stool behind it, briefly losing his balance before catching himself and throwing on a pair of readers that looked very crooked on his face.
Brock grinned at Randle and turned to face Mr. Barnes. Maybe he’d sleep a little bit later. This man just saved Brock from some serious embarrassment.
“You are taking this class because you did not have the grade sufficient enough to take the class at the college preparatory level,” explained Barnes. “With that said, the workload is going to be considerably less and the class is going to move at a much slower pace than your academically gifted college preparatory classmates across the hall in Mrs. O’Connell’s room.”
Brock soon found out that the sad thing about starting high school was that there were a lot more people to deal with and either Mr. James or someone spread the story about Brock claimed to have wanted to sign up for football when he was real intention was indeed skipping class.
Brock had to endure this a few times today and it was even worse when he was continually inquired by his peers on why he quit basketball after one practice in the eighth grade, which went on for a whole month. During these miserable middle school days, his classmates often made the excuses for Brock, such as being unable to take the hitting in football and when it came to basketball, the harsh conditioning in that first day of practice.
“Skip any class today yet, Brock?” yelled Dale Detmer in front of a small crowd of students. Dale was another freshman who Brock went to Edwin Middle with. Dale was very gifted in football, basketball, and baseball. “Why don’t you take a cigarette break in the bathroom? I heard you had a bad habit of doing that.”
Another period went by before Brock had to face another inquiry, this one from Andy, the tall, muscular go-to wide receiver who excelled in every sport he played, much like Lenny except with even more talent. Within a few years he would easily be at the very least, Division II college talent if not the top level.
“Coming to practice today, Brock, or are you going to go to the bathroom during class to think about it?” he taunted while Marcos looked on and laughed before shoving Brock hard into a locker.
And yet another identical question occurred not long after this, coming from a large football player named Derek Clen.
“You know they love taking the high school kids to the alternative school!” yelled Derek when he saw Brock at his locker on the top floor. “I hear the teachers gamble on who’s next, and you’re at three to one odds! But only after you gas out at track practice this spring. Wasn’t that the next sport you planned on failing at?”
Derek proceeded to take Brock’s head and actually put it as far as he could inside Brock’s locker before slamming the door, causing Brock to yell in pain that had now erupted on the backside of his skull. Clen proceeded to do this one more time before taking off with Roberto and Dale.
If Brock had to rank the worst first day of school ever, he was ranking this one at number one, especially after he was intentionally tripped by Randle and David when he was making his way out of the building to the school bus. Brock fell right down the stone stairs and judging from the searing pain inside his pant leg, had scraped a knee. Even worse, Randle took a hold of his backpack and dumped the contents right on Brock before slapping high fives with David. They boarded the school bus, laughing. No bus driver or teacher had seen the incident and there were no Samaritans among the laughing students looking on to help Brock. He struggled to his feet and put his books back in his bag before limping up the steps and onto the school bus and taking a seat near the back. Randle and David were only getting started and they berated him, both verbally and physically, all the way home . Okay, it was the worst first day of school ever. There was absolutely no question about it now.
Brock used to be a fan of going to the high school football games, but that was now a distant memory. If he had to guess, the last time he was well liked by everyone else had been during the grade school years. But at this point, the fourth grade was long gone. Jay and Jed were going to the game tonight against Steel High, which was the home opener. Brock opted not to go. Why would he? After Randle and David double-teamed him on the bus earlier that evening he was now almost certain Lenny was his only real friend, and Brock was even suspicious about Lenny. If Lenny were indeed a true friend, then why was he leaving Brock in the dust at both school and sports while providing him zero support when Randle, David, and others had their way with him?
So Brock decided to stay home watched television (his punishment was finally over) from six in the evening until ten at night, when Jay and Jed came back from the game, which ended with Thomas High losing in a twenty-eight to nothing blowout.
School was just as bad these days as it had been in the past. Things were getting tougher and tougher for Brock and his classmates from an academic standpoint, and Brock continued on his intentional downward spiral. By the time the middle of the quarter arrived, Brock’s progress report was not good. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good. It was just a shade below average. Had the quarter ended today, he would have a grade point average of one point nine. This meant he had some work to do, which wasn’t going to happen. He was going to tank even further.
“What grades did you get, Brock?” asked Lenny after they sat down in the gym before class began.
Unfortunately, a kid named Richie Griesen was sitting right next to Brock on his right side while Roberto was seated in front. The game started a mere five seconds after Lenny asked this harmless question.
“Hey! Your cousin asked you a question, boy!” yelled Richie, slapping Brock hard in the leg, causing him to wince in pain.
Richie was a good five to six inches taller than Brock and about thirty pounds heavier. He was both gym strong and country strong, and his hits hurt.. Needless to say if Brock were to physically retaliate he would be in for some trouble but he was now getting to be double teamed as Roberto Randle turned around the second he heard Richie begin this onslaught.
“You answer to us!” said Randle. Randle pushed Brock square in the chest and stole Brock’s backpack from beside him, opening the contents. He dumped them into a crevasse between the bleacher Brock, Lenny, and Richie were seated and his own.
Brock tried to reach for it, but a friend of Randle’s named Gene Max, saw what Brock was doing and easily countered Brock’s efforts by taking his arms and holding his wrists firmly, keeping him down on the bleacher.
Mrs. Saxon, one of the teachers on duty, should have been paying more attention to this but she was busy talking with several of those in the band and was paying not the slightest bit of attention to what was going on in the bleachers.
Richie hit Brock again, this time in the stomach, causing him to double over in pain and fall into the seat, coughing. Lenny looked on but did and said nothing. He never did anything when Brock was in trouble like this, which occurred quite often over the last few years, starting in the fifth grade. David, seated on Randle’s left side, turned to see what was happening but this time he looked away. David loved to partake in these little beatings Brock received but he did have enough sense to draw a line that separated what he thought of as harmless fun versus total humiliation. Sure, he would trip Brock outside and throw rather harmless insults at him, but this was too much for David. Gene, Richie, and Randle, on the other hand were just relentless, especially when all three of them were together as they were on this morning. By now, Brock knew well enough that when these three were together, it was always going to be a three on one assault, as it had been for years now.
“Let’s see how old Brock’s doing in the middle of his first quarter of high school,” Randle announced to Lenny, Gene, and Richie.
Lenny caught Brock’s eye and gave him a guilty half-smile before looking down at his iPod and began shuffling through songs, pretending to block everything out, as did David who had now pulled out a book and began reading. Brock was on his own.
Lenny actually didn’t intend for this to happen as his question about Brock’s grades was sincere. The problem was that Richie overheard Lenny and hopped into humiliation mode, prompting Randle and Gene to follow suit. Another problem was that Lenny happened to be a bit of a coward even when he was the cause for Brock’s misfortunes. He would just stand by and do nothing about it, which was yet another reason Brock was getting more and more distant from Lenny.
Randle cleared his throat importantly and began announcing the grades to the ever increasing attention seekers made up of several ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders who were seated in the vicinity. Obviously not a single teacher was watching Brock get tortured in the bleachers.
“Physical Science, C minus, we’re off to a good start” rambled Randle. “Physical Education, D plus. Brock, how do you get a D in gym class? Wow, even I have an A in gym. No wonder you couldn’t stick out any sports if you’re so bad at them you can only etch out a D in gym.”
“Because he can’t take anything physical!” shouted Richie, thumping Brock painfully in the back of the skull. “You proved that two years ago, kiddo! And you’re proving it again!”
Seeing stars and eyes starting to tear up, Brock held the back of his head with both hands in a faint attempt to prevent another hit but Gene, who was on his knees looking over the seat took notice and Brock received a second blow to the stomach. He let out a dull yell and doubled over onto the seat.
“Yeah!” yelled Gene, throwing his arms up and slapping fives with Randle. “Knock-out punch! You like that, Brock?”
The only thing running through Brock’s head now was a plea that Mrs. Saxon or someone would notice what was going on back here but nope, she was still being entertained by her band students. Brock also knew he couldn’t yell for her, as he would have only gotten a punishment from Richie, Randle, and Gene during school hours when he would be seen either in between classes, definitely on the morning bus, or in the hallways. These people do not forget things.
“Attention please!” said Randle loudly, clearing his throat a little bit louder this time. “I have more! Technical Math, D minus. That’s disgusting, Brock, you have to do better there! Integrated English, B. That’s as close to an A as you’re going to get. At least you know how to write.”
Brock was now almost completely doubled over, one hand over his stomach and the other one over his throbbing head. He wanted to fight back but he knew he couldn’t. If he got one more suspension he would be working weekends from now until Christmas doing who knows what. Nevertheless, he was in check-mate. If he tried to retaliate to anyone, this gang would blame him for starting the fight. He was cornered and the others knew it. Brock wanted to look over at Lenny for help but he knew it was just worthless. As far as Brock’s concern was growing, Lenny was worthless. Not only that, if they saw him asking for help, this beating would be ten times worse.
“He won’t answer you,” said Randle, now grabbing Brock by the back of the shirt and pulling him back up. “Let me continue before we force it out of you, Brock. And you know we will.”
Brock could only look up at Randle and gape at him while Randle stretched the back of Brock’s shirt, his grip tightening. This was only going to get worse and Brock knew it wouldn’t be over until these three were finished having their way with him.
“Yeah we will!” confirmed Gene, checking the clock on the wall and seeing if any teacher was headed in their direction. “But hurry up, Roberto, the bells’ going to ring any minute now.”
“World History, C,” continued Randle, shouting to everyone who was paying attention to him and within earshot. “Intro to technology, C minus, and Spanish, C minus. Wow, Brock, that’s a B, three C’s and a two D’s. It can’t get much worse.”
Richie made a quick maneuver and grabbed Brock firmly, locking his hands behind his back. Randle crumpled up Brock’s progress report and returned it to him halfway down his throat, causing Brock to choke for the next few moments while everyone looking on erupted in a burst of laughter.
“Need help, boy?” asked Richie in mock concern, slapping him as hard as he could on Brock’s back, causing Brock to spit the report onto the the crevasse below him and Richie pulled Brock back into the seat, holding him down and letting Gene and Randle throw in some last second punches to his face, stomach, and kidney.
The bell finally rang and Gene got off while Brock was now taking refuge inside the crevasse, laying on his side and clutching his stomach. They got up and rushed into the lobby while Brock climbed back up into his seat and fortunately most of the kids had now left the gym.
Still, Brock sat there in agony, wild thoughts running through his mind on how he would never, ever get out of the situation he was in on being at the very bottom of the totem pole of life. Not only was he terrible at just about everything so many others took any and all opportunities to remind him of his place in this life. Sure, David had his line that he refused to cross and at the very least Richie and Randle didn’t attempt to beat Brock beyond repair. They were just out to damage his psyche to the breaking point of where Brock would be forced to remember where he stood in this lifetime.
By the end of the first quarter of the school year, Brock’s already worsening grades had slipped a little. He had a one point nine grade point average when the progress reports came out. On report card day, he found out that he finished the first quarter with a one point seven, with his grades in World History and Spanish slipping one letter grade. However, the going got easy for Brock during monotonous lectures from Mr. Morris and Brock found himself falling further and further behind on note taking days. Brock actually felt like a winner for a change since he did accomplish something in his own mind.
Brock had nothing to do after school when he got off of the bus at quarter after four so he played video games the rest of the evening, not even thinking of giving his school work a look. So this usually meant that he would rush his school work five minutes before he was to turn it in as he had done so often in the past. He quickly found out that this did not work as well for some teachers in high school like it did in middle school. It didn’t take Brock long to realize some of the high school teachers actually cared about their student’s well being. Too bad Brock didn’t care about his own well being in any of their classes.
So as the ninth grade wore on Brock’s grades did not improve in the slightest and he often found himself in a hole early in the following quarters. But, he kept to his plan of making his parents guilty over what happened last summer, so he continued to allow his grades to decline in order to show them last summer didn’t teach him a thing.
While Brock was winning in that avenue, he was still losing in the friend making and popularity game. He was often ganged up on by Gene and Randle. David sometimes joined in and sometimes he didn’t. Lenny would no longer be on the bus ride home the rest of the school year for the most part as he was on the basketball and baseball teams, so Brock had no near ally on the bus, even if Lenny offered nothing more than a guilty smile.
It was safe to assume that the worst beating he had sustained at the hands of his tormentors so far this year was the progress report incident. They usually enjoyed making a mockery out of Brock due to the speech impediment that had haunted him since first grade and it still had not been fixed. He no longer took a speech class being in high school but it had not fixed his eight year long problem in the first place, so Brock didn’t really see a legitimate use for it anyway.
When it wasn’t Randle, Gene, Richie, or David making his life as miserable as they could possibly make it, it didn’t stop others he had went to school with, such as Andy, Marcos, and Dale. Often, Brock was picked on because of his smallish, skinny physique that lacked a muscle tone. The freshman athletes loved pointing this out and no matter what Brock did he just would not commit himself to the weight training regimen many of these kids were now on, being high school athletes. For one, it was too much work for Brock and for another, since Brock found it useless, he gave up on it. Instead he kept telling himself he would prove himself to everyone at a class reunion one day. As for these claims, if he told even someone who was even close to being a friend, it was often met with laughter and disbelief. No one at this school had a high opinion of Brock Patrick. As far as they were concerned, Brock was going nowhere in this life and at this point he had done nothing to prove these people wrong.