“You’re gonna go far, kid,” I told her, as I threw her off the bus. I think I heard a crunch when she hit the pavement, but Rocky had already punched it to sixty-five, and she was miles behind us before I had time to spit. “Christ, did you see that shit? I don’t think I’ve felt this good since Woodstock!”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a wad of torn up papers—today’s lesson plan. Rocky looked at me and grinned through his tinted aviators as I blew confetti onto the dashboard. I don’t think either of us noticed all the shrieks and yells from the other little shits on the bus. After twenty-five years of babysitting, you tend to tune it out.
I peered back at Ian Doi, who had already pissed himself. His pudgy fingers held his glasses up as he buried his red puffy face into the crux of his arm. I guess he could feel something after all. All those times Ethan and Roy bullied the shit out of him, and he didn’t so much as bat an eye. But that’s what did it. Jennifer Fucking McCollin. I wonder if he winced when the rear tire rolled over her head.
“Hey Doi boy, do you need a tissue?”
He didn’t acknowledge me.
“If you’re done jerking it, I think you’d be happy to know that you’re next in line,” I said. I pulled the kid up by his collar. He let out a high squeal, but he didn’t really put up much of a fight. I expected more from his size. I dragged him over to the open bus door, as we whizzed by orange cones, passing Exit 41 on I-95. The rest of the class sat there, paralyzed in their seats. I wondered if anyone would try to get up and defend this blob, but I really didn’t expect much from teenagers. Hell, if it were me sitting there, I’d probably be cheering me on.
“When I told Jennifer back there, that she’d go far, I meant it,” I said. “But my gut tells me that that’s not the same story for you, is it, doughboy? No, I don’t think you’ll go very far. Not without a backbone. You see, it doesn’t matter how much you study, where you go to school, or what you learn. You could be the smartest motherfucker on the planet, but if you don’t take care of number one, then nobody will give a shit.”
“Raise of hands, class!” I shouted. “Who thinks I should shove Humpty Dumpty here off the bus? Anyone?”
They met me with silence and blank stares. Half of them wouldn’t even look at me, not that I blamed them.
“Alright. Karen Sanchez, get your skinny ass over here.”
I heard another shriek. Walking down the aisle, I grabbed her by the wrist.
Funny thing, I gotta admit. Dragging her to the front of the bus took a considerably greater amount of effort than it did dragging Doi boy, and she’s like, what, a quarter of his weight, if that.
“Alright class, one of these fine young meat bags is about to get booted off the bus. All in favor of Doi boy over here, say aye.”
“Aye,” said Chelsea Crammer, Karen’s BFF.
It was more of a murmur, and although I didn’t see her say it, I knew it was her. I was surprised nobody else decided to chime in.
“All those in favor of Ms. Sanchez?” I looked around. More silence. Students staring out windows, some at their feet, some covering their eyes. “Alright Doi boy, you know the rules,” I said, yanking him up to his feet.
He howled, voice cracking, and clasped both hands around my wrist.
“Well, I’ll be damned. Is the doughboy gonna put up a fight?” His expression betrayed his intimidating size—almost as big as me. I managed to keep shoving him towards the door with my bodyweight, yet he somehow grabbed the metal railing and hooked his foot around my ankle, throwing me off balance. And as I tumbled off the bus, I watched the world spin in a haze.
It occurred to me that, if given the choice, many of my coworkers would opt to be thrown off a moving bus rather than put up with my class on a daily basis. I rubbed my throbbing forehead, when I heard a thud and I looked up from my desk. “Mr. Henderson!” Someone called out from across the classroom. I spotted Ian on the floor, beside an upset desk, grasping at a mess of pencils, papers, and eraser shavings. Ethan and Roy stood above him, slapping their thighs as their faces ballooned with laughter.
I popped an Excedrin and glanced at the clock, but class was far from over.
“I’ll deal with you two later,” I said. “Take a seat.”
“You too, Ms. McCollin.”
Jennifer reached over beside Ian and smiled, handing me a stack of papers. The crude violent depictions of Ian’s classmates spoke to me more than he ever did. I fanned through his papers again before stuffing them into my pocket and pointing Jennifer back to her seat.
Ian stood up, clutching a fistful of pencils. The room grew quiet.
“Ian, come outside for a minute,” I said.
The door closed behind us, muting an explosion of laughter.
Ian’s gaze fell to the floor as I placed a hand on his shoulder. “I don’t know why this happens to me,” he said.
“Hey…I get it. I had my own problems when I was your age,” I said. “Trust me, kid, you wouldn’t believe half the shit I’ve been through.”
Ian stopped fidgeting with his glasses long enough to look at me. The lingering scent of Jennifer’s perfume permeated the air, a barrage of pungent punches.
“Do me a favor and grab my pills,” I said.
Behind me, shuffling footsteps echoed along with Rocky’s voice.
“The kid’s got spunk.”