The Blue Hour is delighted to bring you a short story in six parts by author Lucien Brodeur. This is part two. Check back tomorrow for the next installment!
He spent Language Arts period in the Resource Room where Mrs. Pena, who smelled like Aqua Net, tried to get him to focus on a short story called “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Jules was paler than usual with a mop of dark brown disheveled hair and secondhand Wrangler jeans hanging off his scrawny frame. Mrs. Pena kept saying things like “Sweetheart, are you okay today?” or “Sweetie, did you get enough sleep?” while Jules, with far-off eyes, would nod his head.
Now it was time for Social Studies. Jules returned to the classroom where the cinder block walls were festooned with pieces of chart paper bearing Mr. Lee’s cheery handwriting. As the teacher issued instructions students lifted the panels of their desks to retrieve binders, pencils, and trapezoidal erasers.
During the shuffling Chuck Butler, sitting behind Jules, poked him in the back. Chuck spoke just loudly enough so that Jules and Mary Ann Michaelson, their neighbor in the adjacent row, could hear.
“Hey Julia, how was the Retard Room?” Chuck said, grinning, resembling a thug about to mug an old woman. Jules felt the heat coloring his face but did not look backwards, knowing he would see the diseased smile and the freckles bunching on Chuck’s cheeks like cow pies in a field. From his peripheral vision Jules saw Mary Ann Michaelson, wearing a white blouse and blue jeans, watching.
Chuck again jabbed him in the back.
“Hey Jules,” he said. “I’m sorry. I just give you a hard time because I like you, dude.”
Jules was sure it was a trap, but there was something earnest in the remark, and it would be nice to be friends with Chuck instead of harassed by him. He turned around to see Chuck leaning back, pink Izod pullover tight around his chest, the harsh grin gone from his face.
“OK,” Jules replied. Not knowing what else to say he added, “Thank you.”
When he faced the front of the classroom, where Mr. Lee wrote in chalk on the blackboard, Jules missed Chuck nodding his head and winking at Mary Ann.
“Hey,” Chuck whispered. “Maybe we can trade cassettes. Who’s your favorite group?”
Jules mostly listened to his Dad’s records like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, but he only personally owned one cassette.
“I have the Pointer Sisters,” he said.
Chuck attempted to repress a laugh, which came out of him as a loud mocking snort.
Mr. Lee looked up from the blackboard. He was a dough-faced man with bloodshot eyes and a lilting voice.
“Excuse me, Mr. Butler, is there a problem of some sort?”
“No sir,” Chuck said. “Just kind of a weird sneeze, that’s all.”
The class chuckled and Mr. Lee, convinced his lesson was not being disrespected, continued writing on the board.
“The Pointer Sisters?” Chuck whispered. Jules’ face flushed.
“You’re such a huge faggot, Jules,” Chuck said. He snorted again, softly. From the corner of his eye, Jules perceived Mary Ann’s face crinkling up in a smile.
Jules spun around, scowling; his dark brown eyes narrowed as if he would shoot lasers from them. Chuck, though a foot taller and built like a football player, appeared frightened for a moment. Jules stamped his New Balance-clad foot against the tiled floor, startling the class.
“Shut the fuck up, Butler,” he barked.
There was a collective gasp. A student had uttered the f-word in a fifth grade classroom. There was going to be real trouble.
Mouth agape, Mr. Lee turned from the blackboard and marched to where Jules sat, clutched the collar of his plaid K-mart button down, and craned the boy from his seat. Tugging him by the collar, Mr. Lee ushered the offender toward the classroom door exiting into the hallway leading to the Principal’s Office.
Lucien Brodeur is a high school English teacher who lives with his family outside of Boston. His short stories have appeared in Mirror Dance, Eunoia Review, and the Four Cornered Universe.