The Boys got him again. Jackson Creed, flanked by Kurt Marshall and George Paulson, the new kid with pimples, cornered Timothy into the stall and pushed his head into the toilet.
The water wasn’t so bad. Timothy had practiced holding his breath at home, during bathtime. Sure, he flailed his legs and screamed into the water so bubbles erupted around his head, but he just knew he needed to make a show.
But his neck—now that hurt. Jackson seemed to shove his entire weight against Timothy’s neck, and one minute into the torture, Timothy thought his head might snap clean off.
At 83 seconds, Jackson pulled Timothy out of the water. Timothy coughed and spluttered, but 83 seconds was nothing compared to last week, or the week before that, or the week before—
George ran into the stall. “Someone’s coming!” he whispered, and Jackson and Kurt shot Timothy death glares before they sprinted out of the bathroom.
Timothy leaned against the toilet, gasping, and realized that George was still standing by the door.
“What?” Timothy snapped. He’d had so many encounters with The Boys that he no longer cared if he had an attitude.
“Are—are you okay?”
Timothy stared. “What do you care?”
George opened his mouth and closed it again. Timothy thought George might follow Jackson’s footsteps and shove him into the water, but the new kid just shook his head and left.
Timothy groaned as he shakily stood and stumbled over to the sink. He pulled a wad of paper towels out of the dispenser and slowly started squeezing the droplets of toilet water out of his hair, staring at himself in the mirror.
Besides the dripping water, nothing was out of the ordinary. His cheeks were flushed, but no more than usual, and his eyes were red, but that would fade. He didn't think he was too awful-looking.
It was the ears that caused all the trouble, sticking out like that.
“Going for a ride, Dumbo?”
“How’d you find headphones that fit?”
Mom said he’d grow into them, but Timothy supposed that’s what mothers were required to say.
The door suddenly creaked open and Timothy tensed when George reentered. The new kid was at least a foot taller than Timothy, and surprisingly lanky. He had more acne than anyone else in the tenth grade.
Timothy wasn’t sure how he ended up with the likes of Jackson and Kurt, and he watched wearily through the mirror as George walked up to the sink next to his and turned on the faucet.
“Hey,” said George, not looking up.
Timothy glanced behind him at the empty stalls. “Are you talking to me?”
“Who else would I be talking to?” George finished washing his hands and grabbed a paper towel.
“What do you want?” Timothy asked, cautious.
George finally looked at him. “Meet me at the bus loop after school.”
Timothy blinked. “What?”
“Today, after school, I want you to come out to the bus loop.”
“The toilets are still open for swirlies if that’s what you’re going on about,” said Timothy, sticking his chin out at the big handicap stall The Boys always shoved him into.
“I’m not—I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Are you high?” demanded Timothy.
“Or did Jackson put you up to this?”
“I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Look,” said Timothy, getting frustrated now. “I don’t know what kind of game you’re trying to play, but I’d rather just take the toilet again, to be honest.”
Goerge pressed his fingers to his forehead. “Just...trust me. Go to—”
“Trust you?!” He crossed his arms and cocked his eyebrows with a confidence he didn’t know he had. Maybe it was the lack of Jackson and Kurt, or maybe it was the way George stood hunched over, as if trying to look small, but Timothy didn’t feel particularly scared of the new kid.
“Why’re you friends with Jackson anyway?” blurted Timothy.
George dropped his eyes and shrugged. “He—he heard me asking about you.”
Timothy suppressed a groan. Great. Even the new kids talked about him.
“I know you don’t have any reason to trust me, and you don’t really know me, either, but I have an idea,” said George, glancing behind him. “Just go to the bus loop after school, okay?”
Timothy stared at the lanky boy in front of him and jerked his head in a single nod.
With that, George hurried out of the bathroom, leaving Timothy with dripping hair and a growing sense of apprehension.
Timothy walked as slowly as he could to the bus stop, coming up with excuses to tell his mom when he showed up looking like a peach thrown from a ten-story building.
“Fell down the stairs Mom, no big deal.”
“Tripped into the dumbbell stand in P.E.!”
This was stupid. This had to be a trap by Jackson, some kind of public display of dominance. He almost laughed when he realized he missed the toilet.
He approached the bus loop and sucked in a deep breath. There, leaning against a pole, stood George.
Better get this over with, thought Timothy. He walked up to the new kid and planted one foot slightly in front of the other.
“Just do whatever you—”
“Hit me,” George whispered.
“Hit me in the face.”
George looked down. “Let’s say I used to be the guy in the toilet,” he said quietly.
Timothy blinked. “I...wouldn’t have guessed that,” he said, guarded.
George shrugged and looked Timothy hard in the eye. “If you want it all to stop, just do it.”
Timothy met George’s determined stare, and for some inexplicable reason, believed him with his entire being. There was something about his eyes and how they flitted around nervously, and the way he wrung his wrists—as if always looking for a predator.
Timothy knew that look well.
“I was asking Katie Lou if you had friends, and Jackson overheard and said something about your—your ears,” mumbled George.
Timothy gritted his teeth. “Sounds like Jackson, yeah.”
“And I just...made a joke about them. I’m sorry,” George said fervently.
Timothy looked at the new boy, and a sudden sense of pity washed over him. “I don’t blame you. I might’ve done the same, honestly.”
“I just didn’t want to be Pizza Face again,” whispered George.
Timothy stared at the acne covering George’s face and felt bile rising in his throat, along with the strange urge to cry.
“But what are they going to do to you when you...” he trailed off.
George glanced over at the school doors, where Jackson and Kurt had just walked out. The Boys started walking toward them. “Don’t worry about me—I’ll figure it out.”
Timothy suddenly thought about Jackson and Kurt and all the times he had to practice holding his breath in the bathtub, and he curled his fingers into a fist.
“Thanks, George,” he whispered.
”Don’t mention it.”
He pictured Jackson’s face as George’s and swung his fist forward.
Right as Timothy’s knuckles brushed George’s cheek, George flung backward in an Oscar-worthy performance, something red dripping from his nose. Timothy saw the flash of a Ketchup packet and almost burst into laughter.
Jackson and Kurt turned from walking to sprinting, and Timothy felt his heart stutter at their furious glares.
“F-f-fine!” stuttered George from the ground when the two boys reached them. “I’ll leave you alone! Just—just don’t hit me again, please!”
Timothy cocked his head at George, who winked.
“I—I won’t,” said Timothy, playing along. “As long as you never come near me again.”
George nodded vigorously, holding his nose. “Got it, man.”
Without looking at Jackson or Kurt, Timothy turned around and walked away.
That was the last day The Boys ever pushed Timothy’s head into the toilet.
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You should totally add the category "funny" because it is. Haha, it's a great idea in case some bullying goes on at any school. Love love love reading this and I can't wait for your next one. ;)
Thank you so much, Scout! :)
Great story and it's so well written! I really enjoyed it. The characters are great and I like how you showed Timothy's courage and fierce nature. The way you introduced George in the story was also very smart. Great job Leilani
Hi, Drew! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I see you’ve written a few stories—I’d love to read those, adding them to my list! :)
Aw, I love this story! I think you handled this prompt really well (I thought the prompt was challenging). It's rooted in the harsh realities on educational institutions but is also touching and sweet. Such a great job, as usual! I didn't see any errors; the revisions you made to this were excellent.
Thank you so much, Lina! Edited it quite a bit from the first draft. :)
It's awesome! Well done! :)
Wow, I really enjoyed this! It was well-written from start to finish. I especially liked how you brought George into play here, from how he went from a bully, to a sympathizer, to someone that might even be considered Timothy's friend if given time. You touched on a big truth I feel we often forget: we will never fully understand why people are the way that they are until we know what they've gone through. That type of lesson, and character development, isn't easy to show in a short story, but you absolutely nailed it. Fantastic job! :)
Wow, your comment made my day!!! Thank you so much! 😊😊😊
Oof, I'm one of those people that used to get called "Dumbo," because of my abnormally large ears. I definitely know how Timothy feels. I like the contrast of Timothy being bullied, but also being headstrong. I think that's how a lot of people are, realistically. There are certain people they're scared to stand up to, but also people they easily stand up to. When I was a kid, I was mouthy, even to my bullies. I guess that's why they stopped xD. I noticed a couple easy fixes. "they sprinted out the bathroom." Just need an "of." "...going ...
Oh my god, introduce me to those assholes who called you Dumbo and I'll give them a piece of my mind. That makes me so angry. Why are kids such douchebags sometimes??? I think you're up to 30+ fixes on my stories. At this point I should just hire you as my editor. ;) BLESS YOU. That's kind of the tone I was going for, so that's awesome to hear!!! Supposed to be more middle/high school. A genre I'm still learning a lot about. :)
People are pretty darn awful! But hey, at least I didn't know who Dumbo was at the time?! I don't know if that's consolation... Honestly! I don't mind being your editor, I'm here for it ;). That's what I figured! And you did a good job! You'll just get better and better as you go :D
What a great twist. In the beginning, I was so depressed, realizing (maybe remembering) how kids in those situations get used to what is done to them. There's no sense anymore of, "I don't have to live this way;" it turns into "I'm going to pick my torture, because the bullies usually go along with it when I add humiliation to my torment." But the meeting at the light post got my imagination moving; I couldn't figure out how this could go forward without breaking the reality of a schoolyard story. When it came, it made perfect sense. And ...
"I'm going to pick my torture, because the bullies usually go along with it when I add humiliation to my torment." Very well-put, Ray! Sad, but well-put. Thank you so much for your comment!! I 100% didn't even connect the prison yard to this but you're completely right. Dang.
Hey Leilani (btw, is there a reason your last name changed?), I really liked this one. It reminded me of a moment from my life that I didn't think I wanted to remember, but it felt happier than when I usually think about it. I think the writing was very well done here. Keep up the good work! I've written another new story, if you wouldn't mind reading. Of course, take your time, though.
Hi Maya! I actually wanted to stay more anonymous. :) Thank you so much for your comment! Also, I am falling SO behind on reading your stories, grrrr... but I'll have much more free time Friday/this weekend, so I'm planning to read/write a lot then! :)
That's totally fine! Take your time! I just stay anonymous by only using my last initial, but Leilani Lane sounds nice!
Thank you! :)
Funny 'holy crap I'm tired' moment on my part: I didn't read the category tags, and for the first few paragraphs I mistakenly visualized a shakedown over a barrel of fish at a western saloon. Something about the names, Arizona, and even calling them the Boys. I dunno, I should probably get to sleep lol. Mom said he’d grow into them, but Timothy supposed that’s what mothers were supposed to say. — two supposed's a bit too close together for comfort A couple misspellings of George (Goerge) I've got to be honest, compared to most of yo...
Easy mistake to make! ;) Great catches, I’ll be sure to change those. And yep—I like to get my rough draft down and then edit during the days that are left. This one needs some big edits that I’m doing right now and throughout the rest of today.
Huh. I would never tell another fellow writer to "scrap" a story altogether. Comes across as quite hurtful, rather than constructive. I'm all for constructive criticism for a writer to improve, but a person can't improve on their writing by erasing it entirely. ALL stories can be revised, rewritten, and reformed. Just a thought!
@Lina I said scrap, what I really meant was shelve. I just meant that there's not a whole lot of time left for her to polish this one before this week's deadline, so maybe she could wait until it suits another prompt and rework it in the meantime. That said, she obviously works a lot faster than me, and she said there were big edits in progress, so I'm sure she'll be able to give it the attention it needs. Peace. No harm intended.
That's fair, A.g. It's still a bit rough but I think I'll leave it--I'm on a mission to write for all five prompts even if the stories are a bit rough... :) This isn't my favorite story but perhaps I can do a sequel/prequel for another prompt sometime!! And give that story much more time than I gave this one.
A.G., I appreciate the response and clarification. Also no harm intended; just felt the need to "stick up" for the fellow writer. Thanks for this explanation!
Thank you, Lina!! I agree, I definitely like to keep all my stories, even if they're a bit rough. :) And I always love constructive criticism. I appreciate your comment!!
A loose interpretation of the prompt, I suppose. Work in progress.