Best Worst Day Ever (Part 6 — The End)

Chest heaving, Matt stumbled up the sidewalk. Head swimming from exertion, he paused and caught his breath. Bile filled his mouth, and he spat. His stomach lurched, but he breathed deeply and caught himself. If only it was possible run away from his thoughts. With leaden feet, he climbed the tall steps of his porch and slipped inside the door.

“Matt,” a voice called, faint and far away. “Is that you?”

He looked up and realized it was his mother. He wandered over, listless, looking at the floor, tears dripping down his cheeks.

“What’s the matter?” she asked as soon as he passed through the curtains into her bedroom.

“The brush,” he choked out. “I lost it. I’m so sorry, Mom. I didn’t intend to lose it, I truly didn’t,” he blubbered.

His mother’s pain-hardened face softened. “Come here, honey,” she said, her good arm outstretched. He sat on the side of the bed and laid his head on her chest, listening to her heartbeat as she stroked his head and neck.

“It’s okay.” She turned his face up to meet hers. “A brush can be easily replaced.” But even as she said this, a veil of sadness crept into her tone. “I don’t really need it anyway.”

As he started to tear, she quickly wiped it away. “I love you. Always remember that. You are never alone as long as you love, and let others love you.” The words jumbled together, swirling with conflicting emotions. She kissed him lightly on the nose.

For some reason the burden of the day left his shoulders, replaced by a curious giddiness. How could that be, after all that had happened? Still, much as he would have liked an answer, he did not fight the feeling. Why did he get so worked up over a brush? How ridiculous was that? Despite everything, a smile broke out.

Mom cupped his chin. “Go get cleaned up and get ready for dinner. The Wilson’s will be bringing over something to eat tonight.”

Yay! No more rotten cooking courtesy of The Beast. He hugged Mom, and kissed her good hand. Then he slipped upstairs, a lightness in his heart, almost compensating for the pain in his nether-regions.

That night, after homework, dinner, and a warm bath, he lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. The events of the day swam through his mind, giving him little encouragement. Mom always told him to pray in times like that. Phooey! A lot of good that did. He was through praying to a silent God who ignored him. But as the black thoughts clouded his mind, an incessant voice needled him. Do it anyway. He clamped his eyes shut and whispered:

Dear God,

Do something!

Amen

He opened his eyes and stared again at the blank ceiling. Worthless. Oh well. He lay back and rubbed his eyes. The wind tapped on the window panes, making the rafters creak and groan, almost as if the house was breathing. Such natural noises usually stirred up his nightmares, but for some reason, tonight, they did not. Instead, his limbs grew heavy, and his thoughts drifted. Tomorrow he would see his ghost of a father and new stepmother. An awkward situation, but at least he would be doing something – going somewhere and not be alone.

Matt had almost forgotten about that prayer, but certainly not the best worst day ever, though the memory, like a rotten piece of fruit, had rolled away into the dark corner of his mind. Still, the event had been a watershed, because soon after the creaky wheels of fate turned.

His sister graduated from high school, joined the Navy, and was swept off to calmer seas. Mom lost her fight against cancer; the house and everything of value disappeared in bank sanctioned theft. Like flotsam after the storm, Matt drifted onto the doorstep of his father and stepmother, for a second chance at childhood, in a new home, and in a new school.

Matt picked up Emma’s hairbrush and felt the silky strands of hair left by his young daughter. Wow, so long ago. A glance into the mirror above the sink revealed a head of gray-white hair, the redness long since gone. The taut, foolish boy’s face had morphed into a tired looking man with wrinkles. Yet he had survived, having gained more than he had lost.

Emma appeared behind him. “Shouldn’t we be going?” she asked.

He spotted her in the mirror and turned around, a smile arcing across his features.

“Why are you smiling?” she asked.

“Because, my dear, you are a beautiful answer to my prayer.”

She looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “Say what?”

“Sometimes things don’t go the way we want or planned. Sometimes we don’t have any clue where life is going. But if we know that we are loved, and we love others, somehow we can get through everything thrown at us.” He reached up and kissed her on the forehead. “Always remember that I love you.”

Eyes glistening, a smile appeared on her face, and Emma pressed in against his chest. “I will, Dad. I will.”

Best Worst Day Ever (Part 5)

Luckily, no one else was inside when he got there. Nurse Gilbert sat behind her desk, head down, scribbling into a book of crossword puzzles. Matt stood there in the doorway as she scratched away. “Ahem.”

She looked up, eyes latching onto his bent form. “Oh, come in. Pull the door shut behind you.”

He stepped inside and did as he was told. “Okay, what seems to be the problem?”

A horrifying realization came to him. Oh no, what do I say? My nuts have been pulped and shoved back into my guts? His hands moved from his crotch as he groped for the words. “My … My … stomach hurts.” Yeah, that’s it. “My stomach REALLY hurts,” he implored.

“Okay dear,” she soothed, eyes narrowing. “How about if I look?”

Fear shot up his spine. What the hell was I thinking? I can’t have some strange woman looking at my dick. “Uh, uh, no that’s okay. I’m doing better.”

“Are you sure? How about an ice pack?”

“No thank you,” he replied, forcing a smile. “See,” he raised his hands. “All better. Thanks for your time.”

She raised an eyebrow but eventually shrugged. “Okay honey, but you know where I am if you need me.”

Matt nodded before shuffling quickly out the door. Around the corner, he ducked into the boys’ room, and for once, his luck surfaced. The restroom was empty. He slipped into a stall, and slowly dropped his pants, expecting to see everything that was worth being a boy, laying mashed and bloodied. He took a quick inventory and breathed a sigh. Like his father would say, “All present and accounted for.” But, intact did not mean undisturbed. In fact, the random pattern of rainbow colors was almost beautiful. Who would have known that Lester was an artist? Okay, now for the test. Hopefully, it won’t come out my belly button or ass. He let go. Pain sizzled through his loins. Wincing, he stumbled against the cool metal walls of the stall and forced his eyes open. The stream was yellow, and everything still worked. Hooray! I’m not a girl!

His school day marched along, and Matt shuffled along behind it, tenderly nursing his damaged crotch. When the final bell rang, he breathed a sigh of relief. Now all he had to do was survive the trip home, then he would be able to check another day off the calendar. But what did that mean? Days left until what? Summer vacation? What was worse, hot, humid days spent outside, in self-exile avoiding the clutches of “The Beast” or being shuttled between homes during Mom’s cancer treatments? He spent most of last summer alone on a bike, on the edge of town watching bats eat mosquitoes over the cornfields at dusk. But, as boring as that seemed at least it didn’t involve being castrated by steel-toed farm boots.

The cheese wagon arrived with Chuck at the wheel. With rare, but certainly appreciated luck, he found himself at the head of the line to get on board. With both hands on the railing, he hauled himself up the steps. Ow, ow, ow. The seat to Chuck’s right was open. He slid into it and made himself comfortable and watched as the rest of students trudged up the steps. Seats behind him had filled before Kurt shuffled onto the bus. With a demonic twinkle, the creature stood in the aisle, next to Matt’s seat.

Chuck looked over his shoulder. “Move on Lowermilk! You’re holding up the line.”

Kurt’s eyes narrowed, and he gritted his teeth, but the two-legged black cloud drifted past to find a perch further back.

Matt sighed. Cool, someone else gets to be the ape-man’s punching bag for the ride home.

He stared out the front window as the bus turned away from school. This was possibly the worst day ever, but it would soon be over. Something nagged at him. He had forgotten something, but what? Suddenly it occurred to him. The brush! He dug into his pockets, but it was not there. Glancing about, he didn’t see it on the seat or the floor either. Oh, no! His heart raced, palms grew moist. What happened to it? Frantically, he searched his pockets, seat, and the floor again. Oh God, it was lost. What would he say to Mom? Tears formed in his eyes as he stared at the houses passing by. The long minutes of the ride home spun away from him like his sanity. Nausea twisted his stomach, and he cupped his face in his hands, forcing sobs away. Before he knew it, the bus stopped at Sweet Doughs.

He slowly pulled himself up as his legs quivered and ached. The stairs down loomed before him, like cliffs above rocky shores. Taking a breath, he slumped down them, ignoring the throbbing pain in his crotch, and stepped over the curb onto the sidewalk. A noise drifted in from behind him — the clicking of a bus window.

“Hey pussy,” Kurt yelled.

Eyes moistened, and lips twitching, Matt turned to look at Kurt.

“If I were your mother, I’d want to die of cancer too. Have a terrific weekend, faggot.”

A ripping sensation tore through his mind. All the bottled-up angst and pain splayed through the fissures of his self-control. His limbs shook, and tears ran down his face. Blindly, he ran – past the white brick facade of Sweet Doughs, past familiar neighborhood trees and houses, toward his own home. Events of the day played out in his head until his pounding heartbeat, and heavy breathing drowned out the noise.

 

Best Worst Day Ever (Part 4)

With a frown, Younder turned again to Matt. “Okay young man, come with me.” He gestured toward his office, and Matt walked inside.

“Sit down,” the Principal said, moving to the chair behind his desk.

Matt spied a large wooden high-backed chair sitting in front of the desk. Rumor was it had been used for electrocutions and still had marks from wires and electrodes. Perhaps even charred flesh. While he looked for the telltale evidence, he suddenly felt eyes glaring at him. He looked up to see Younder sitting with hands clasped like a prison warden.

“Well, I’m waiting,” he chirped with a hint of annoyance.

Matt sat. Younder glanced at the pink piece of paper in front of him. “It says here you told someone in class to shut up. Is that correct?”

He saw no reason to lie. “Yes, I did.”

“Care to say why?”

Well, I could. But what good would it do? Probably just another lecture on sucking it up. Forget it, time to play possum. He shook his head, “No.”

Younder tapped his fingers near the four-foot black paddle laying on his desk. As the paddle wobbled, Matt could see the words Attitude Adjuster written on it in gold paint.

“You know you aren’t supposed to do that. You understand?”

Matt nodded.

“You won’t do that again, will you?”

He shook his head, “No.”

The look on Younder’s face was a mixture of boredom and disgust, like a custodian having seen one too many dirty toilets. As his eyes wandered around the room, his feet tapped a bit. “Okay,” he replied. “I think you learned your lesson, besides it is almost time for pictures anyway. Go back to class.”

What? Did I hear that right?

Younder leaned forward and spoke slower. “I said you can go now.”

Whoohoo! Another beating averted. He jumped up and whipped through the door, happily chugging his unmarked lily-white backside back to class.

* * *

Later on, the line for pictures spilled from the gym into the hall by the library. Matt stood next to Leigh. “Hey,” Leigh said. “How do I look?”

He looked his friend over. Perched in the boy’s left nostril, hung a vaguely brownish-green and yellow, dried booger.

Matt started to say something, but suddenly remembered the incident on the bus. “You look fine,” he lied. Serves you right, you little prick.

Leigh smiled. “What are you going to do about your hair?”

Nuts! He’d forgotten about the cowlick. Digging in his back pocket for his comb, he instead found his mother’s hairbrush. As stealthfully as he could, he slid it out and dragged it directly over his porcupine quill. “Hey, Leigh. Did I get it?”
“Nah,” Leigh replied. “It’s still there.”

Piss. He glanced into the glass windows of the library; the willfully insolent hair stared back at him. With growing desperation, he dragged the hair rake through his reddish mess. The line kept advancing toward the gym area. Leigh was next. Matt turned and nodded to the kid behind him. “Go ahead of me.” Drifting farther back, he combed, smoothed, raked, hoed, swept and pummeled the rebellious mess. Finally, he stared at the glass and saw his hair lying flat and comatose. Cool!

A voice called from the gym, “Next!”

With a smug grin, he marched into the gym and took his seat in front of the photographer. A few clicks later, and a requisite “cheese” he motored toward the playground for recess. As he passed the door window, he noticed his cowlick standing at attention, essentially giving him the finger for all his hair taming efforts. Ah shit …

Hands deep in his pockets, he meandered toward the ball court on the playground. Great, I’m going to have that stupid cowlick in my class photo. This day just sucks. How could it get worse?

“Hey Stevens!” a shout came from behind him.

He turned. “Wha-” Pain shot through him as a heavy farm boot embedded itself in his crotch. Air shot out of his lungs as he doubled over and fell like a statue onto the ground. His mouth opened to scream, but with no air in his lungs, all he could make were choking noises. Steel toed boots smelling like hog crap appeared in his line of sight. He instantly knew who had ambushed him – Lester MacNey.

“Gotcha faggot,” the twice held-back sixth grader barked to the heavens. The red-haired, pale-faced farm boy stood over him, his green eyes wide and staring, a crusty lipped smile spread across his features, showcasing his yellow teeth.

Matt writhed on the ground, dimly cognizant that Lester “the ball molester” had added his genitals to the farm-boy’s trophy case.

Pain swirled in Matt’s mind. Oh God, I’m dying. Onlookers stared in relief of not being today’s winner of Lester’s lottery of sadism. With a self-congratulatory swagger, the miscreant stepped away to look for other prizes to collect on his safari of pain.

Matt rolled until he could get enough air to sit up. I think my balls have been mashed. With that motivating thought, he shambled back to the school building and headed toward the nurse’s office.

Best Worst Day Ever (Part 3)

Matt crossed his fingers before the door opened. But as he made his way onto the cheese wagon, his hopes for a relaxing morning ride went out the window. Four rows back, under an unruly mop of black hair, a pair of ferret-like eyes glowered at him—Kurt Lowermilk. Leigh blinked at the sight of the overgrown sixth grader, a veritable man-ape, then shot into the first available seat, furthest from Kurt as he could get. He sat on the outer edge, so Matt couldn’t slide in next to him.

“Move over,” Matt implored.

Leigh avoided his eyes and shook his head, “No.”

Damn you. He scanned the available seats, and only two became apparent, the one in front of Kurt, and the one in front of that one. Bingo! Now if he will stay put, I might have a chance. He moved quickly to his goal, avoiding the feral eyes leering at him.

Dear God, if Kurt moves, hit him with a lightning bolt.

From behind, the scrunch of plastic seat answered him.

“Hey pussy,” Kurt said, spraying spittle on the back of Matt’s neck. “How come you aren’t sitting with your boyfriend?”

Matt froze. And so it begins. To punctuate his despair, Kurt’s dog-paws flicked his ear with a thwack. Sharp pain radiated down his neck. “Ow,” Matt jerked forward, cradling his ear. “Stop it, Kurt.”

“Stop it, Kurt,” the boy taunted in a falsetto voice. He smacked Matt in the back of the head, causing him to strike the seat frame ahead of him. “What are you going to do about it, pussy?”

Nothing. Matt rubbed his forehead. Not a damned thing. So, he slid down in the seat. The ape-man’s arms kept flicking and slapping him. As he wiggled further down into the seat, the slaps changed to painful jabs. He felt the bus change direction. From experience, he knew it must be the drive into the school drop-off. Drops of spittle sprayed the side of his face. Suddenly the seat lurched upward, nearly tossing him off it. If nothing else, Kurt was predictable. Kneeing the seat always happened as the bus made the turn into the school. Again and again, the seat bucked until the brakes hissed.

Matt jumped up and darted toward the aisle, but the man-ape’s sharp elbow greeted him, knocking him back onto the seat. He rebounded to see Leigh leap out of his seat, but Kurt reached out and seized a handful of the boy’s hair.

“Owwwwwww,” Leigh whined.

With a shove, Kurt tossed him back into his seat and stepped toward the front of the bus.

Bus driver Chuck shifted in his seat. “What’s going on back there?”

“Nothing sir,” Kurt said as he pushed past other kids and toward the bus steps. “I think the little ones are having a lover’s quarrel.”

Chuck looked at Kurt, “I’m on to you, Lowermilk.”

Kurt gave him a toothy smile, “Yeah, whatever.” He stepped off the bus and headed for a low cinder-block building labeled Gaines Middle School.

Shaking off his bruises, Matt slunk toward his first class. He slipped inside Mrs. Linn’s fifth-grade classroom, and walked to his cubby, depositing his jacket and lunch bag. With some effort, he stuffed the lunch into the arm of his jacket, to avoid getting it stolen by the cubby trolls, who made a habit of stealing bagged lunches from those–like him–who couldn’t afford to buy school lunch. Then he grabbed a coffee can with a piece of masking tape across the face of it, spelling out “Matt Stevens.” He looked at it in disgust, all that was missing was the word–Loser! Oh well, it’s what he had. With a quick grab, he seized the can and slid into his seat.

The Wilson twins, Cassy, and Carla looked at him, then at the coffee can. Cassy sniffed and pinched her nose shut. “Ewww, what stinks?”

He paused to consider his options. The daily pecking order throw-down had begun. So he peeled the plastic lid off and held out the coffee can. “Cowpie. Want it? It’s fresh.”

Cassy recoiled dramatically. Carla rolled her eyes but suppressed a smile.

Matt chuckled. Made ya look. He pulled his pencils and erasers out of the can as Cassy placed her pink David Cassidy book bag on the table.

When he glanced up, Cassy said, “Why don’t you get a decent bag for your stuff?”

Duh, cause we’re poor.

To salt the wound, Carla spoke in a low whisper, “Cas, his family probably can’t afford it.”

Cassy kept her eyes on Matt as she answered loudly, “Why not? His daddy is an officer in the Army. Don’t they get paid … something?”

“You know my dad is retired,” Matt shot back, his face becoming hot.

“Oh, right, he doesn’t do anything now.” She feigned surprise. “In fact, he doesn’t live at home anymore.”

Carla’s eyes shot daggers at her. “C’mon Cas, stop it.”

The corner of Cassy’s mouth ticked upward. “Didn’t he marry his secretary?”

“SHUT UP,” Matt shouted, banging his balled-up fists on the table.

Silence. Uh-oh. The whole class looked at him as Mrs. Linn slowly rose from her seat. “Matt Stevens, we don’t talk that way in class. Do you understand me?”

He looked at the ground. “Yes, ma’am.”

She pulled out a pink slip of paper and scribbled on it. “Take this to the office, immediately.”

He nodded, slipped out of his chair, and made his way to collect the referral. “What do we say?”

He stared into her dead eyes. “Sorry,” he said with utterly no remorse, intent or meaning whatsoever. There are you happy?

She frowned. “Be off with you.”

Matt darted to the hallway and made his way to the principal’s office. At the entrance to the inner sanctum, he pulled up sharply at the sight of the secretary, Mrs. Nix, whose high blue hair contrasted sharply with the redness in her reptilian eyes. She glared at him over a set of cat-eye reading glasses, connected by a chain to the scales on her back, or, so he supposed.

“What brings you here?” she asked between chews of gum. At least he hoped it was gum. Leigh said she ate children, which he hoped wasn’t true unless the unfortunate victim happened to be Kurt Lowermilk. With a quick glance, she spotted the referral, and ripped it out of his hand.

Her eyes slithered over the note. “A troublemaker, huh?” She smiled, in her usual grotesque fashion as a gap appeared between her false teeth and gums. With a withered tongue, she adroitly pushed the upper fangs back into place. “Well, we got what will cure you,” she said wagging a bony finger toward the bench in front of a door labeled, “Clinton Younder, Principal.” He could hear voices behind the door.

“Honestly, Dwight,” came Younder’s booming voice. “Why are you always in here?”

“Why are you always giving me shit, man,” came a drawling response. Matt immediately recognized the voice of Dwight Agar, otherwise known as Dewey. The only kid in school that regularly told adults where to go, how to get there, and what impossible anatomical feats to do with corncobs.

“None of that talk Dwight. You know the drill. Let’s get this over.”

“Son of a bitch,” Dewey said tiredly. Sounds of movement reached Matt’s ears, followed by a loud SMACK, and an ear-splitting yelp from Dewey. This happened at least four times as Matt cringed lower and lower on the bench. De Fuhrer was in superb form today.

Silence, followed by sniffles, preceded the door opening. Dewey shuffled out, rubbing his backside, his face and eyes red. He looked at Matt and managed a small smile. “Got his excellency warmed up for you.”

Matt shook his head. The kid had balls, though they were probably inflamed and bruised. Younder stuck his golf-course tanned head out the door, “Dwight, go back to class, and I don’t want to see you again this week.”

As he turned his attention to Matt, Dewey flipped the bird. Matt’s eyes darted to Dewey and Younder seeing the movement, whipped around, but the boy deftly changed his gesture to scratching his nose. The Principal glared at him. “You heard me. Get to class.”

Dewey saluted. “Yes, suh.” He then tore off into the hallway.