Roger Cole released the penny from three rows back, just as the teacher turned to the blackboard. The opportune moment couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a direct hit on the back of Arnie Maggon’s skull. Immediately, he felt a small welt beginning to grow underneath his long hair. Every kid in Mrs. Severn’s seventh grade algebra class began chuckling, but Arnie remained quiet in the front row. Suddenly, he could hear his mother ringing in his mind, as he sat with a lump pulsating on the back of his head.
“Do you like bein’ the butt of everyone’s jokes? Do you enjoy bein’ treated like the school nerd? I mean really, Arnie, quit showin’ you’re a pussy and stand up for yourself once in a while. Can’t you see they’re all laughin’ and pointin’ at ya? Can’t you see that?”
The laughter diminished, just as Mrs. Severn wheeled around to notice Arnie sitting upright and still, while a tear rode down his right cheek. The small, copper weapon rolled under her desk.
“Who threw that?” Mrs. Severn was furious, as she slammed the half piece of chalk she was using on the rack.
The entire class remained silent, but some proud expressions scattered throughout the room. Mrs. Severn could see them.
“Answer me! Who threw the penny?”
“I’m warning you all.”
“Okay, well no one wants to cooperate then the entire class will be asked to write a 200-word essay on why there is a penny sitting under my desk. Got it?”
Several moans rumbled through the classroom. Roger Cole had a look of conceit, but rapidly changed to displeasure from the teacher’s announcement. He still supported a slight grin, though. He knew he would never do the assignment. It would be just another “F” to go along with his collection.
“Maybe this class will understand that everyone, I mean everyone, has feelings in this class,” said Mrs. Severn. She continued to look at Roger. She knew in her heart that he threw the penny, even if she didn’t witness the act. He was the most difficult child in her class; a student who held the record for the most consecutive visits in Principal Martin’s office. “Kindly wipe the smirk from your face Roger Cole or you will report to detention everyday for the rest of this month. Is that clear?”
He mumbled under his breath, “Screw you bitch.”
“What was that?”
“That’s what I thought.”
Mrs. Severn turned her eyes from Roger and onto Arnie. “Are you okay, Arnie?”
“Yee…ya…yes, ma…ma…ma’am,” Arnie said, although the throbbing on the back of his skull continued to beat. “I…I…I will be o…o…okay.”
“Do you know who threw the penny at you?”
“Na… na…no ma…ma…ma’am, I…I don’t.”
“Very well then. Class, I want all of you to apologize to Arnie whether you were involved or not. What happened to Arnie was despicable and it will not happen again. Is that understood?”
Most of the class responded. Roger did not. He heard them apologize, but he remained mute, as his mind whirled with horrible thoughts of revenge. Peers and foe knew him around Nankin Mills Middle School as â€śThe Victimizerâ€ť, and in his sick, twisted mind Arnie had caused this. Arnie was the reason they all got stuck writing a stupid fucking essay. He did this and the little, stuttering bastard was gonna pay for it. Oh, by God was he gonna pay.
There were only three minutes left of algebra class. It would be the final bell of the day. Only three more damn minutes for Roger to have to deal with Mrs. Severn’s glares and then it was payback time. He peered at the back of the stuttering freak and pondered on how to get even. Just what would be more perfect than the hurled penny? Earlier, in social studies he got him good, by acting like he tripped and elbowed him in the side of the face. The teacher thought that the incident was a real accident. He even asked if everyone was okay. It was perfect and it felt so good to slam the little puss. But what now? What was gonna top them all? What was gonna be the grand finale of the day? Roger thought; hoping his evil creativity would bloom with the last ticks of the clock. Then he remembered that the wimp had a weak bladder; some kind of pissing problem or some bullshit. He probably had to wear a diaper to keep from wettin’ himself. Did it really matter? No, he was gonna get the little fuck and he was gonna make him suffer. Then a grin began to grow. That wonderful, smart-ass smirk that he was famous for covered his face, as he knew what to do. Come on clock, move! This would be the best ever.
The sweet sound rang just as the time had shown 3:00pm. All the kids started to gather up their books, ready to race out of the final hour.
“Now remember class, the 200-word essay is to be turned in tomorrow. And that goes for you Mr. Cole,” Mrs. Severn announced at the bell.
“Yeah, yeah, what the fuck ever,” Roger spoke for the second time under his breath. His thoughts were on catching a sputterin’ moron.
Roger had to hurry if he was going to beat the freak to the boy’s room. He knew Arnie would always make a last pit stop before heading to his pathetic household, and that he wouldn’t waste any time trying to get off the school grounds for fear of being picked on. Roger wasn’t the only obstacle poor Arnie Maggon had to face day in and day out. There were many Roger Coles and although not quite as bad, there were many waiting to tease and taunt him over his stuttering problem. They wanted to ensure that he was inferior, because he was different. Unfortunately, there were everyday events of toilet swirlies, head slaps, name calling, and numerous other downgrading activities on a frail kid. His speech impediment and grubby appearance had caused the other kids to think he deserved it. This didn’t stop at school. He felt the misery at his home life, too. Arnie’s father left his mother when he decided to start screwing one of his co-workers. She later found a new love, however–alcoholism. She also made sure Arnie knew that he was to blame for his dad taking off.
“Damn, stuttering retard. Everything was fine ’til you were born. You ruined it all. You hear me, you…you stupid, non-speakin’ idiot. You pushed ‘em out.”
Her booze would often slur her speech, but the words always cut straight through Arnie’s heart. So many times they would cut, and that wasn’t all that tore into him. The nails would hurt, also. Those dirty, rusty nails attached to the warped board she kept in the kitchen under the sink. He will never forget the board painted “The Punisher” in a deep red. It visited him in the middle of the night and every morning when he rose out of bed. She wanted to make sure his urine would never stain the linen again. So often, Arnie had begged her to stop, but the alcohol wouldn’t let her. It was a morning ritual to try to hide the bloody bruises and puncture wounds with toilet paper and a few pieces of tape. He wanted so desperately to escape it all. To find a way, so no one, including his own mother, could ever hurt him again. But he knew of his passive ways. He wouldn’t harm a fly. He’s weak. Simply known as Arnie Maggot, the school nerd; a nobody who often yearned to wish it all away.
“Boy, he’s a fast little shit,” Roger said to himself, as he dodged through the crowd toward the rest room. “There’s no way he’s already in the john.”
The loaded hallway had made it difficult to reach the entrance, but somehow Roger shoved his way through. There were two boys standing at the urinals. Frantically, he started searching for his helpless victim. He knew he was in one of the stalls, but where? Where was the little bastard? Roger could feel his blood racing through his veins with excitement. He was on the hunt and he was almost drooling from his vile thoughts on how he was going to get even with the skinny nerd.
The two boys waited, for they knew there was something getting ready to happen. They could see a strange look in the bully’s eyes.
“Where are you, Maggot? Get your sssooorryy aaasss out here, you stutterin’ freak,” Roger yelled, while thrusting open the stall doors, “so I can even the score!”
Roger saw two feet, as he peered under the last stall. “I got you, ya pansy. Now you’re gonna pay.” Roger kicked open the door and there was Arnie with his head covered.
“Pa…pa…please…da…da…don’t hurt ma…ma…me,” Arnie cried out.
The two boys looked at each other in amazement, as Roger rushed toward a defenseless Arnie. His eyes were wide from fear. He knew the outcome; Roger was going to beat him to a pulp, but what could he do? He was no match for Roger’s powerful clutches. There would be no fighting back, no protection. Roger will do what all the other kids have done to him, only worse. Arnie sank to the bathroom floor, awaiting Roger’s punishment.
Roger grabbed Arnie and pulled him to the toilet. “Now, I’m gonna piss and you’re gonna stick your greasy, nasty face in it. You hear me, ba…ba…boy? Your gonna drown in my piss!”
“Pa…pa…please da…da…don’t da…do this,” Arnie cried.
Again, the two boys did nothing, but witnessed what was happening with their mouths dropped open. Roger began urinating in the toilet, while Arnie attempted to squirm free. His attempt failed and in the rush to get Arnie, Roger peed all over himself.
“Now, you’re really gonna get it.” Suddenly, Roger forced Arnie’s head into the toilet by pulling on his hair. “How do you like it? Taste good, Maggot?”
As Roger continued to dunk Arnie’s head in the yellow water, he turned to notice the two boys staring at him. They both had a perfect view and they had concerned looks on their faces, or maybe it was confusion. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem right. The more and more Roger plowed Arnie’s head in the toilet and the more and more Roger glared at the two boys, the bewilderment increasingly got worse with each dunk. His head started to spin and his stomach began to weaken. Immediately, he felt sick from thrusting poor Arnie’s head in the liquid waste. It was strange, but he actually began to feel Arnie’s humiliation. It was difficult to breathe . . . as if he was drowning…drowning in his own urine!
He stopped splashing his hands in the yellow toilet water and began screaming. Roger’s hair and clothes were soaked in urine. The back of his legs began to sting. He yanked his pants down to notice the deep puncture wounds starting to swell from the wetness. The pain of â€śThe Punisherâ€ť had now affected him and scattered redness covered his backside. The burning was so intense he could no longer stay in the stall. He had to leave and quickly.
Both the boys raised their fingers and pointed. “Looky, looky. He pissed himself again,” one of the boys said to the other.
“Yeah, looks like he misplaced his diaper. Oh, he is a diaper. Arnie Maggot, a walking diaper,” laughed the other boy.
But how could this be? He was Arnie Maggon. He was the freak, but how? How could Arnie miraculously turn the strongest bully in the school into the weakest little bed-wetter? In Roger’s shaken bewilderment, he saw a reflection in the mirror. It was true; he even resembled the little loser. The greasy hair dripping with urine… the bold, pocked face…the scrawny, weak body…
“Ahhhhhhhhhh!”Â Roger screamed out of the bathroom, he could hear a ringing in his ears, as he ran down the hallways, “You useless, stutterin’ retard. When are you ever gonna learn? When are you ever gonna stand up for yourself? It’s all your fault for your father takin’ off. You caused all of this, you freak!”
Roger held his hands over his ears. “Stop it! Leave me alone. I didn’t mean it, Momma. I didn’t want Daddy ta…ta…to ga…ga…go,” he whined, as he bolted through the school with his pants hanging down and his yellow stained under-wear in view. The remaining kids laughed at the spectacle.
In the bathroom, Arnie was all alone. Slowly, he walked from the stall toward the mirror. He stared at himself, as he grew closer to his reflection. He wiggled a copper object that was sitting in his pocket. He checked the lump on the back of his head and he was grateful the swelling was down. The water was cool, as he rubbed his hands together under the faucet. The sounds of Roger bellowing through the school halls were beginning to fade. Arnie slid his wet hands through his hair and smiled, “Next.”
By R. Todd Woodstock