If Not Now

Salt and copper fills his mouth as the stinging pain burns James’ lips. He smells metal and his eyes begin to sting. His knees are week and his arms are heavy but he refuses to go down. He has walked away too often and he refuses to now. Everyone knows James is the one who puts his head down and takes it. It started in kindergarten and has continued up until now, in the seventh grade.

To be honest, he did need to stand up. Something just snapped. Nathan slapped him in the back of head so James turned around and shoved him. Nathan’s friends formed a circle, James’ slinked away. He does not care though. He does not care as fists crash into his ribs and mouth. He does not care as Nathan pummels his stomach. His vision blurs and his head swims and still he stays on his feet.

Swinging wild and fast, only one in ten of James’ blows land. Nathan’s friends laugh at the awkward boy. None of them sees the rage in their friend’s eyes. He was challenged by this scrawny loser, and none of them knows how angry he is. No one in the yard to, except for James. James feels it with every jab and swing. He tastes it in the blood running from his nose.  James is angry too, almost as angry as he is happy.

He should not be proud. He knows that. Mom taught him to turn the other cheek, but that cheek had been slapped too many times. So he his proud. He may hate it later. As Nathan’s blows slow down James has no idea what will happen next, but he is certain the worst of it is behind him. More people gather around as the bigger boy’s arm wraps around his head. James cannot hear what he is shouting and does not care. He only knows he is still on his feet and the crowd around them is getting bigger.

His friends have returned, along with half the class. Other students are chanting Nathan’s name,and James’ own pals are silent, but they all know now. He has nothing to be afraid of anymore. His ears burn as flannel rubs against them and all he can see is the ground. Neither of them sees the principal, and neither cares.


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