(An assignment from 617 Creative-Writing Theory and a look into the fictionality of creative nonfiction.)
He was a third-grader with a long green coat. He held a board that looked like it used to be a skateboard, only it was thicker. Maybe. And it was painted green. But it was splattered in all sort of other colors, blacks and reds and dark blues. I don’t know why it would have been painted like that. I saw him threatening another kid with it. I looked around for an adult. Someone who was bigger than this kid.
I don’t remember which side of the school it was on. In one memory, the older memory, it’s on the north-west corner of the school. But I have another more recent memory that puts it on the east side of the school, right next to the tether-ball poles. The more recent one is a stronger memory though. I know that.
I’d never seen a real person threaten someone before--just in movies. I guess I threatened my brothers. But not with a board. And even if I had, I wouldn’t have really done anything. But this kid looked like he might. I believed he would. I think this was the first time I realized that this is a mean world and there are people out there who will treat you like crap. For no reason. Or for no other reason than that they were treated like crap when they were in first grade.
I was walking toward him. He was between me and where I wanted to go. I think the bell had just rung, and I was walking toward the doors. Other kids were running in from the playgrounds too. But for some reason, he focused on me. Me, walking along the side of the school, the side of the school that was red brick, the red brick I’d ordinarily run my fingers down in the smooth grooves where the mortar was. But not this time.
It’s an interesting contrast. Me being innocent enough to walk right up to this kid, not realizing that he might actually follow through with his threat. The innocent, shy little blond, contrasted with the crazy kid, a third-grader probably, who was damaged enough to carry a board to school and raise it in the air and scowl at the first-graders.
I remember that red brick though. The color of blood, darker red, because it’s drying blood, because it’s been a while since you were gashed in the head with a painted board--or at least threatened with that possibility.
And I remember his green coat. A poofy down coat that seemed worn. And it seemed too big on him. Although it has started to look like a my little brother’s coat, with an orange lining around the inside of the collar. But it wasn’t that coat. It was an older, dingy coat. My brother’s coat wasn’t dingy. But the mean kid’s was.
I felt scared, but I was also innocent enough to keep walking toward the door. I had to go inside--the bell had rung. He lifted the board above one shoulder, and leaned forward, toward me. He clenched his teeth. I don’t remember that, specifically, but I’m sure he did. And there was this look in his eye. I remember that clearly. A real hatred. I don’t think he’d ever seen me before. But I guess he probably hated everyone. And there was another something in his eye. It was fear. He was holding that board up because he felt threatened. And that was the only way he knew to defend himself.
Who knows, maybe his dad carried a board around too.