1095 to be sure
According to schoolyard etiquette, Ian was too short and too odd ever to achieve any kind of positive social status. He was shy, and from time to time he could be heard inappropriately whispering to himself. His complexion would be very pale if it weren’t colored by what appeared to be a constant blushing. He always looked as though he had just suffered humiliation, or that he was about to apologize for something.
Schoolyard bullies had marked him at every school he attended, but never for too long. Ian had an explosive temper that when unleashed by the proper bullying ritual resulted in severe violence and/or property damage. In addition, his parents seemed to have an insane devotion to instability that had picked him up and moved him from apartment to apartment at least nine times in the past three years. Ian had no friends and no permanent enemies because he simply didn’t have the time.
On the first day of seventh grade at his newest school, a girl with flowing black hair, a black dress, black shoes and a black umbrella that matched her dark eyes approached Ian at recess and sat down next to him on a bench under a tree. He had been watching the other children play at some sport while he mumbled to himself. Amy giggled to get his attention. Her skin seemed the whitest shade of pale he had ever seen. At first he thought she wasn’t real, that she was a living cartoon, but then she spoke and broke his trance. She asked him innocuous questions. She offered up valuable information about schoolyard policy, and then she shared personal information regarding her figurine collection. In return, Ian made her smile by telling her that he was poor, that his mother and father were demons, and that he had a terminal illness that would probably take his life within twenty-four hours.
On Friday, a few of the bigger boys surrounded Ian and Amy at recess and would have lobbed jeers and insults at them had it not been for Mark who had the reputation of having fought everyone in the seventh grade at least twice. Afterward, the three of them sat on a bench in silence until the bell rang calling them back to class.
Over the weekend, Ian and his classmates had been given the assignment to prepare a show-and-tell presentation based on a favorite hobby. On Monday, while each child sat anxiously awaiting his turn to take the stage at the front of the room, Ian lazily slouched at his desk, and Ms. Worthington watched him closely as though he might disappear into thin air.
Amy, dressed in what could be considered by some to be a miniature prom dress, was the first to make her presentation. She exhibited a few of her figurines and proudly explained to the class what they meant to her and exactly how she had acquired each one. As though hypnotized, the class offered worship and applause long after she had already returned to her seat. Mark, sporting a freshly blackened eye, had brought in an intricate model of a clipper ship that he and his father had apparently built together over several weeks. Again, the class applauded, but without the adoration that Amy had commanded. Another seventh-grader brought in a coin collection, while yet another exhibited her apparent fascination with hair accessories. One by one each child took the stage, presented their hobby, and duly commanded polite respect and proper applause from their peers.
During each performance, Ian had sat in the back of the classroom fighting sleep. He had been awake most of Sunday night listening to his parents attack each other with nearly incomprehensibly high-pitched threats and screams , and when it was finally his turn the teacher had to call his name twice before he responded. Slowly, he rose to his feet, grabbed his backpack, and walked through a row of smothered snickers and preconceived criticism until he reached the front. To the absolute bewilderment of the entire classroom, including his teacher, Ian retrieved a fifth of bourbon from his pack and held the bottle high above his head. Before his teacher could react, he cracked the seal, took a large pull, and then clinched his teeth hard, so that he could scowl at his peers rather than wince at the burning in his throat and the desperate sickness curdling in his stomach. Time seemed to have stopped momentarily while he walked over to the presentation table and smashed several exhibits with his bottle. He then asked his classmates whether anyone would care to join him in Hell.
The children, except for Mark and Amy, sat in a stressed silence. They were horrified to the depths of their suburban souls. Even young, grossly inexperienced Ms. Worthington stood gaping in awe. Ian took a deep breath and set down the bottle of whisky beneath the whiteboard, and then he waited for some kind of response, but was met only with the silent, open mouths of his victims. Mark and Amy smiled eerily as they looked around, but everyone else in the room remained motionless as though any movement might provoke something more unexpected and terrible.
Ms. Worthington took a step forward and began to speak, but was suddenly held back by the same dark shadow that had stolen the very breath from the entire class. On his way out, Ian apologized to Mark for smashing his ship, and he offered an apologetic glance at Amy who simply giggled at him before breaking forth into a slow, dramatic applause. As he crossed the threshold, Mark and Amy stood and followed him out across the playground toward the perimeter fence. It was Amy who broke the silence. She peered deeply into Ian’s soul and then asked him whether his parents were demons.
“Werewolves,” admitted Ian.
“Just like my parents,” said Mark as he rubbed his swollen eye.
“I suppose I’m more vampire than anything else,” confessed Amy holding her umbrella to shield herself from the sun.
“Growing up like this is tough isn’t it?” asked Ian.
“No kid should have to go through it, but at least we have each other now. And we’re going to be friends for a long, long time. Forever, in fact,” said Amy.
“You should release the class,” said Mark.
“Oh yeah,” she said as she glanced back at the schoolroom.
As Ian watched Ms. Worthington and her classroom exit the building in a panic, he smiled, and suddenly all three of them began to laugh.