Click here to read the first installment of this YA short story.
Sam went to school early the next morning, hoping to catch Mr. Tucker before homeroom. Mr. Tucker was already in his classroom, setting out specimen trays on the lab tables. He looked up and smiled at Sam. “What can I do for you this morning? You really need to try to avoid detention. I see you every time I’m in there.”
“My locker’s at the other end of school from my history class, and there isn’t time to get there.” Sam leaned against one of the tables. “How come no one does anything about Elliot?”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s always getting pushed around. Last week during gym, Jackson punched him in the stomach, and Mrs. Morin didn’t even say anything.” Sam paused as he realized how loud he was getting. He didn’t need to yell at Mr. Tucker. “Sorry. Like yesterday, you broke up the fight, then Elliot got detention for wearing high heels and being late for class. Even though he was late because of Warren.”
“And even though I gave him a late pass,” Mr. Tucker said. “I agree it isn’t fair.”
“So what are you going to do about it?” If he didn’t agree with what was happening, he should do something. He was a teacher. He could do a lot more than Sam.
“All I can do is keep breaking up the fights and reporting things to Mr. Sterling.” Mr. Tucker shrugged. “Maybe if some of you kids stood up for him, the bullying would stop. I don’t know. As I said, I agree it isn’t fair.”
“You agreeing with me isn’t enough.” Sam straightened. “Thanks anyway. I thought you might help. I guess I was wrong.”
“I’m sorry, Sam.”
He left the room and headed for the office. If Mr. Tucker wanted to blame Mr. Sterling, Sam would just have to talk to Sterling.
He didn’t get there. The hallway was blocked by a group of students chanting something. Sam shoved through the crowd. In the middle of the group, Warren was holding Elliot by the dress.
Dress? Sam blinked. Yeah, Elliot was wearing a dress. A green one with a black sweater over it.
Warren punched Elliot in the face. “Get out of our school, queer!”
Sam didn’t even think, just yelled, “Get Mr. Tucker!” and plunged into the middle of the fight.
By the time his mother showed up, Sam’s nose had pretty much stopped bleeding. Warren hadn’t been too impressed about Sam stopping him from beating the crap out of Elliot. Sam didn’t care. He was pretty sure he’d given Warren a black eye, though he hadn’t seen Warren since all three of them had been hauled into the office.
His mother didn’t say anything to him until after she checked in with the secretary. She sat next to him and took a deep breath. “I’m trying not to be angry, Sam.”
“I was sticking up for someone else.” Sam looked at her. “No one else would. They just stood there cheering the other guy on.”
“You should have just told a teacher,” his mother said.
“Teachers don’t do anything around here.” He leaned back and closed his eyes. He should have figured she would say something like that. She bought into the whole safe school thing. She didn’t know how things really were.
Mr. Sterling walked out of his office with Warren and a guy who looked too much like Warren not to be his father. Warren glared at Sam as they passed him. Sam pretended not to notice.
Once Warren and his father were gone, Sterling beckoned Sam and his mom to follow him. He closed his office door behind them and sat at his desk. “Fighting is an automatic five-day suspension for the first offense.”
“That isn’t fair!” Sam shook and didn’t bother trying not to yell at Sterling. If the guy had been doing his job, Sam wouldn’t have been in the fight in the first place. “I was sticking up for Elliot, because you and most everyone else here doesn’t do a damn thing for him.”
“Watch your language,” Sterling said.
“Screw my language.”
“Sam.” His mother put her hand on his arm. “Calm down and just tell Mr. Sterling what happened.”
Sam took a deep breath. It wouldn’t matter what he said. He could already tell Sterling had no intention of listening to him, especially since he’d just yelled. Sterling didn’t appreciate having students yell at him.
“Warren was beating on Elliot again,” he said when he figured he could talk without exploding. “Everyone was just standing around cheering. Elliot wasn’t fighting back, so I did it for him.”
“Warren said Elliot started it,” Sterling said.
Sam shrugged. “I didn’t see the start, but I’ve never seen Elliot fight anyone, so I really doubt he started this one. Yesterday Warren pushed Elliot around just because he could. Because no one here does anything about fights.”
“I am doing something.” Sterling leaned forward. “If you have a problem with the way this school is run—”
“I have a problem with the way you don’t handle bullying.” Sam looked straight at the principal. He wasn’t even close to intimidating, and Sam wasn’t about to let him off the hook. “You hear the same news I do, I bet. All the kids who kill themselves because they’re bullied. And you just let it keep happening to Elliot. I did the same thing. So does everyone else around here. It’s like Elliot deserves it or something, except he doesn’t. So I did something about it.”
“Elliot has been disrupting this school since last year, and we’re dealing with it,” Sterling said. “Meanwhile, we’re here to talk about you. Fighting is five days. Automatic, no exceptions. I’ll take you to get your books out of your locker, and I’ll have your teachers email your assignments to you.”
He stood. “Next time, take care of yourself, Sam. Get a teacher to take care of other people. That’s their job, not yours.”
“If they actually did their job, I wouldn’t have had to.” Sam stood too. “Screw my books, and screw you.”
He walked out of the office. He’d probably end up in even more trouble now, but it was worth it.
Jo Ramsey is the author of several YA novels including Dolphins in the Mud, Life Skills, and the two series Reality Shift and The Dark Lines, as well as the adult urban fantasy novel Vengeance Is Sweet.