Fiction Funny Friendship

“O,” Enoch mumbled. He opened the window after Bas knocked three times, but instead of letting him in, he stood guard over the frame. “Were you going to smash my window in?”

“No,” says Bas, crossing his arms behind his back, crossing his fingers on his left hand, and clutching the brick with his right. He lets it fall into the grass when Enoch backs away from the frame, and he crawls through the wood.

“I hope you have a reason for being here at four o’clock in the morning,” Enoch says, dragging Bas from his bed, and throwing him into the chair by the desk. “You’re lucky I sleep on the first floor, or else I would’ve lured you halfway in, just to push you back out.”

“Aren’t you kind?” Bas sneers. “You told me to come when no one would hear. . . Are you sure what you heard is true? It’s a serious accusation, Enoch. . . How’d you even hear it?”

“All I remember is patiently minding my own business,” Enoch says, as he recalls pressing his ear to Mr. McClary’s door. “And that’s when he said it, clear as day. He said —.”

Three loud bangs.

The boys turn away from each other, and rise to their feet, and stay where they stand, afraid they’d been caught. And then, it was just Harper Blake, coming in through the window.

“God, eat less!” Enoch hisses, when the boy made of blood, bones, and finely stretched skin, lands on his knees and forehead, tripping on the way through, and shaking the room when he landed. The neighboring boys, must’ve heard the fall for sure — and if they didn’t, then for sure they caught when he kicked the edge of Enoch’s desk, causing his books and his pens to fall onto the wood floor.

“Screw you,” Harper quips, leaning against the wall by the window. “What did you call me for?”

“I didn’t call either of you,” Enoch reminds them. “When no one else can hear,’ didn’t mean four o’clock in the morning. . . But now that you’re here, I guess now’s as good a time as any. . . It’s worse than we thought, boys.”

Mr. McClary came to the Southeast Michigan boys school on a Tuesday, and Tuesdays weren’t any good, for anything. Everything else has been wrong about him ever since.

Mr. McClary bikes to school, from his cottage up the hill. All the other teachers live on campus, even the ones who have families, and Mr. McClary does not have a family, but he lives up the hill. Mr. McClary eats lunch with the sophomores at a sophomore table, and he talks to them about British Literature, and what they should expect should they take on A.P. English. All the other teachers eat in the lounge, and gossip about the students, and pinpoint the ones they believe are gay, openly or other, and decide who they’d be a nice couple with, and plot to seat them next to each other next seating chart adjustment. Mr. McClary doesn’t gossip about anyone — something about people being born with feelings. Mr. McClary likes pickles on his pizza, and cilantro in his orange juice. Mr. McClary is not a right person.

Recently, there were rumors that Mr. McClary was further a wrong person; he hates dogs, and it is believed he tied one in a sac, and threw it down the river. He hates babies, and it is believed he tied one in a sac, and threw it next to the dog, down the river. He hates elderly people, and it is believed he broke into the elder center and stole one. . . and tied it in a sac. . . but let it go when it badgered him enough times about the old days, and how people were kidnapped more efficiently in the old days, on their horrible walks though the mountains, and the rain, and the burning lava-coal grounds and cow shit — in the industrial city — to school. But the rumors were not so awful as the truth.

“Go on,” Bas urged, folding his hands and holding them to his chin.

“I heard him say it, plain as your nose,” Enoch says. “He’s from Ohi—.”

“Oh, my God!” Harper whines, rolling his neck, and rolling his eyes, and crossing his arms, and turning around.

“It’s the truth!” Enoch yelps, and then he remembered the whole point was to be quiet. “It’s true,” he whispers, “Mr. McClary is from Ohio. Cincinnati too, not even Sandusky, or Toledo.”

“I knew it,” Bas decides, throwing his hand against Enoch’s desk. “I knew something was wrong with him.”

“Dude— I’m from Ohio,” Harper says, squinting his eyes at the other boys.

“No way,” Bas denies him, scrunching his nose and eyes, and cocking his head. “For how long? Since when have you known this?”

“You’re not from Ohio, Blake,” Enoch says, rolling his eyes at the kid. “You’re not.”

“I am from Cleveland, Ohio,” Harper says, “I only moved here last year. I’m pretty sure I introduced myself as, Harper, from Cleveland.”

“I thought you didn’t mean it,” say the other boys, in sync. 

“I’m going to my dorm,” Harper says, beginning his forward stride to Enoch’s door, on the other side of the room. “And I’m taking the hall, not the window.”

“Yeah whatever. . . I can’t even look at him,” Bas says, when Harper leaves, and is gone for at least five steps. “How are we supposed to love him?”

“I don’t know,” Enoch admits. 

Instead of dreams, Enoch saw patterns in the ceiling, gift of the outside trees casting shadows by the moon, and every other minute or so the patterns became night visions, of all the things that were wrong with Harper Blake. 

Harper doesn’t believe in ghosts and that was strike number one, because everyone knows Mrs. Adams is dead, and has been dead for forty-nine years — or possibly she is very old — but shows up every morning bright and early to teach world and American history. Harper Blake does not believe the things that are right in front of him, even if, they are right in front of him. Harper Blake does not think extravagant pets are the best of ideas, and that is untrue as everyone knows, because owning a tiger named Dog should be the first wish on everyone’s list to achieve a happy and successful life. But Harper does not believe this — something of animal rights, endangerment and cruelty. Harper Blake believes genuinely, that school is the best place for learning. Everyone knows if you really want to know something, you’ve gotta go where it lives. But Harper believes in the system. It must be a symptom of coming from that horrible place, Enoch believes, to be such a wrong person.

“I didn’t do the homework,” Bas whispers the next morning in Mr. McClary’s class, and naturally, Mr. McClary picked him, Sebastian Green, to read his assigned poem aloud.

“Um,” Bas quivers, and then he clears his throat. “Err . . . Roses are red, violets are blue. . . Mr. McClary’s from Ohio.”

There was uproar, before Mr. McClary excused the boys to a free hour, and despite being the one to give it to them, he exited the room the villain, while Bas emerged the hero of the hour.

“It isn’t that horrible to be from Ohio,” Harper speaks first, breaking the silence between him and the other boys, when they all realized they only invited him to the courtyard for the free hour out of familiarity, but not because they knew what to say. Bas can’t even look at him. He won’t, at least.

“What’s so great about Michigan?” he goes on. “All people know you for is cars and hotdogs, and that’s only a city out of the whole state.”

“Well all people know Ohio for is being the worst,” Enoch quips.

“Yeah well, all you Michiganders vacation in my state,” Harper reminds him.

“It’s fun to see how the others live,” Enoch quips. “All your people drive cars.”

“Our football team is better,” the boys say, together.

“Is this really a thing we are talking about?” Harper asks. And when Enoch doesn’t answer, he decides it’s really true. A whole year of best friendship, gone out of the window by fault of silly state-lines. He supposed he should’ve been born in Michigan. It’s not like he didn’t end up here. If he could’ve been born here, then he wouldn’t be on the verge of losing everything. . . But then he realized, where you are born, is not equivalent to who you are. And it is not illegal, to love the place of which you came. Ohio gave him everything. Michigan, spat in his face.

Harper didn’t say goodbye, before he left the boys behind in the courtyard, and that made them feel a little bad, but not horrible enough to follow him. And then eventually, when the free hour was over, Enoch had a sudden thought.

“Do you remember when you asked how we were supposed to love him?” he asks Bas, who grips onto his backpack strap, and nods slowly yes. “Maybe, and just maybe. . . Maybe we’re just supposed to do it anyway?”

“But what if it’s too hard?”

“No one ever said it was easy. Just that we’re supposed to do it.”

The boys never said sorry, because best friends are not supposed to say such words, they are supposed to feel them. But it was nice, Enoch believed, to know confidently that the hatchet was buried when Harper came falling into his window, at five o’clock the next morning.

“So?” Enoch asked, scooting over for Harper to sit. “Is it true?”

“It’s more than true,” Harper said, and the other boys leaned in close per his instruction. 

“How can something be more than true?” Bas whispered.

“It’s more than true,” Harper said, “because it is confirmed. . . Mrs. McAlester is Canadian. I heard her say it herself.” 

June 12, 2021 02:57

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.