I glanced at the clock, waiting for the familiar bell. Ten more minutes. Ten long, excruciating minutes. I tapped my pencil on the desk a few times. How much longer? I brushed at a piece of fur tickling my large green ear. I looked around the classroom at all the other attentive students. I smoothed my plain gray T-shirt and popped a mint into my mouth. I can’t deny my love for mints! As I was about to trash the mint wrapper on the floor, the student reading aloud came to a halt.
“...And that is the history of Neopia,” finished the Kiko, Larry. He straightened up in his seat purposefully.
“Thank you, Larry. Alright, who wants to read next?” said the teacher, Mrs. Planer. “How about you, Brock?” She pulled down her glasses and peered at him. Her look was piercing. It gave me the shivers just watching. Mrs. Planer was the kind of teacher that could intimidate any student. Except Brock, of course.
“Nah, I’m good. I’ll just sit here and follow along, like usual,” replied Brock the Grarrl, with a cool smirk.
Mrs. Planer had a distressed look on her face. She’d obviously been having a problem with Brock. He refused to read in front of the class. I looked at him. He had a ball cap on, pulled down over his eyes. His clothing was baggy. He leaned back in his seat toward one of his friends. I watched him whisper something and laugh. He probably just cut down a fellow unsuspecting pupil. Aside from Brock being a bad-mannered student, he is also the school’s biggest, non-merciful bully.
I would always wonder why he was so mean. It didn’t seem anyone had done much to make him so hostile. My wonder did not last long, I found. I can still recall those grueling days...
It was a chilly winter afternoon during the Month of Sleeping. The sun was hidden by thick clouds, giving the air an extra coldness. It was recess time, the perfect period for ridding of excess energy and socializing. For others, the perfect opportunity for bullying. I was contently sitting on the ground, drawing pictures in the sand with my fingers. My last masterpiece had been a battleground; full of warring soldiers and fierce Unis. I pulled my jacket zipper up. The wind was moving faster. As I went on to draw a castle, I saw a large shadow swallow me. I slowly lifted my head.
“How’s it going, Sheared Sean?” teased Brock. Sheared Sean, they called me, for last semester’s bad shearing. Boy, the things you must go through being a Gnorbu. He kicked my sand mural, sending thousands of sand grains sailing into my face.
“Just fine, thanks,” I said back, softly. It was as if some of the sand had gotten into my throat, eliminating my ability to speak up for myself.
“Fine? Fine? We’ll have to fix that then, won’t we?” His grin was filled with evil and maliciousness. It made my spine tingle. I shifted a bit, feeling mighty uncomfortable.
He grabbed up my jacket sleeve and attempted to pull me over to a wall. I kicked and broke free, and ran.
“Yeah, you better run!” he called at me harshly. I did not look back.
The frostbitten wind burned the back of my throat. I had stopped, behind the school and out of breath. What had I done to make him so angry? I sat, a bit lightheaded. I didn’t know I could run that fast! The bell rang. I headed back to class, shaken up and fearful.
I scrambled for a seat. Typically, the back rows were filled with unwilling students armed with spitballs and angry faces. I settled for a front row chair. At least these didn’t have countless names and pictures carved in them.
“Okay class, let’s continue on our novel, The Buzz Factor.” She paused and flipped through the book’s frail pages until coming to our last stopping point. “When I call on you, you will read a chapter.”
There was a groan from the students. It was so intricately spoken, it sounded as if they had practiced it. Seconds later, there was a paper airplane in mid-flight that landed right in front of the teacher.
“Alright, who wants to claim this aircraft?” She picked it up and held it out gracefully.
There was a loud cough from the back row. A cloud of giggling arose and everyone peered at Brock.
“Ah, Brock. How about you read us this chapter, yes?” the teacher said daintily.
“Let’s see, how about someone else reads it, and I sit here until class is over?” he snapped back.
“Brock, begin reading or it's to the principal,” she stated. We all knew that Brock couldn't use another trip there.
“Come on, lighten up.” He tried one last time.
“Alright, alright.” He gave in. He looked around at his fellow pupils, a worry in his eye. He kept his composure and began to read.
“The... Bu-Buzz began – uh, what’s that word?” He looked at the teacher, obviously nervous, then again at his classmates.
“That is walking,” she replied, emotionless.
There was a small laugh from the class. Brock gave them a discouraged look and tried to continue on.
”...walking and... sing... sing...” he stuttered.
“Hey B-B-Brock, keep reading!” called out a student.
“Yeah, the teacher didn’t stutter!” said another.
Brock got up from his seat and fled from the room, his head down. The teacher cleared her throat and gently said, “Alright, uh. We’ll stop for today.”
Throughout the day I kept hearing various things about Brock. From one Lenny, I was told that he actually had lunch in the bathroom. From another Kyrii I was informed that he sat in the front row at math class.
On my walk home, I debated in my head whether to laugh at Brock and him finally getting a taste of his own medicine, or to sympathize for his embarrassing incident. It wasn't long before I was home. And even there, my mind kept on. Lying in bed, I replayed the humiliation on Brock's face during reading, like a worn-out video tape. Why was I so concerned, anyhow? I closed my eyes.
At recess the next day, I made my sand murals in peace. Not one threat was spit at me, and I didn’t have to run. Everything seemed to be at peace. I looked up and around. I saw Brock, sitting against a wall, alone, scrunched up. Normally, Brock would have been picking on random students, sneering and giggling as they fell at his feet. But today it was different. I automatically had a flashback to yesterday in reading class, about Brock’s reading problem. Once everything from yesterday had sunk in, everything else just clicked into place. Brock’s constant bullying came from anger of his stutter, and not from a vault of evil. It was so clear.
So clear, that I would go and talk to him. He looked so desolate and sad. I trotted over to the wall he was sitting against.
“Hey, Brock. Uh... sorry about yesterday. Those kids can be kind of, uh, harsh,” I said. Why was I here? He hadn't helped me in any way.
“Yeah,” he muttered.
“Listen Brock, I know –”
“Why are you talking to me? Don’t you know I’m the joke of the school now? Besides, all I’ve ever done for you is caused you pain,” he said, cutting me off.
“Brock, regardless of how much you’ve hindered me, and made me scared enough to change schools, I want to help you. So what if you have a little reading issue? That can be fixed. And after all, everyone has their flaws,” I said, trying to be encouraging.
He looked up at me. “Oh yeah? If everyone else has their little flaws, why are they paying so much attention to mine?” he said back, with a crack in his voice.
I felt sorry for Brock. I felt sorry that he had such a lowly back of friends that fled him. I felt sorry that he had a stutter. And mostly, I felt sorry that he had to put others down to take pride in himself.
His huge body was shaking. I couldn’t determine if it was from the cold, or fear or being further taunted.
“They’re doing anything they can to keep the focus off of their insecurities, so they point out yours. They’re bullying you to keep them from being bullied,” I said quickly. I was getting good at this.
Brock looked at me. And for the first time, not with fury, or a questionable smile. He looked at me like a friend. We sat in silence for a minute or two. The shrill bell screamed in our ears. We stood up together, and began to walk back into the school.
”So it’s Sean, right?” Brock said.