In the last couple of weeks Ben has really gone through the ringer.
“You aren’t really going to do it, are you?” Gene asked Ben, but he already knew, and he wasn’t so sure how he felt about it.
English class was almost over, and still the story Ben wrote was in his folder. When was he going to give it to Mrs. D? And what would Mrs. D. do? Whatever she did wasn’t gunna to be pretty, and would probably splash all over Gene as well as his friend.
Why couldn’t Ben have written about someone else?
Ben didn’t bother to answer Gene’s question, even when the bell rang for the end of class. Gene kind of tagged along, watching real close to see just what Ben would do. When Ben walked out of class without turning the story it, he breathed a sigh of relief, though he did it carefully so no one would notice.
“I thought for sure you were going to give it to her,” he said, slapping Ben on the back.
Ben shook his head.
Gene’s back felt weird, in a bad way. Ben always got real quiet when he was going to do something crazy. Like the time he skate boarded down the up drive in the parking ramp between Johnson and Gorham across from the capital building. He almost ran head on into a cop that time. Or the time he yelled at Mrs. D then ran out of class. Or the first time he offered to let Gene stay over at his mother’s house.
Wriggling his shoulders uncomfortably, Gene tried not to think about how many times the crazy assed things Ben did helped him out, or how bad it would have been if Ben turned in that story.
The story about Gene’s father and Mrs. D getting it on, and the two of them, along with Ben’s dad, planning to lock him and Gene up.
Ben shrugged out from under Gene’s arm, but he always did that. Gene didn’t take it personal.
“Not that Mrs. D wouldn’t deserve it after what she did to that one story.”
“The one Miss Spring handed over to her. That was so bogus. You wrote that story for Miss Spring, not Mrs. D. Besides, a C is the best grade Mrs. D has ever given you.”
“She shredded it.” Ben looked scary mad. “Every page has red pen all over it. She didn’t like the words I used, or what I was talking about, or anything. It was NOT a stupid story. It wasn’t!”
Gene only nodded. He wasn’t much of a reader. He didn’t know if Ben’s story was good or not. But he did know Mrs. D.
“She’s just yanking your chain. You know she gets off on that. Don’t let her get to you.”
“Too late.” Ben stomped off down the hall, totally ignoring a bunch of cute girls coming toward them. “I’m not going to let her get away with it this time.”
“What are you going to do?” Gene hid his nervousness in the roughness of his voice.
“I gotta tell someone what I know. And I know just who, too.” Ben swerved into the school’s office, surprising Gene.
“No. You can’t mean to…”
Ben wasn’t listening. He breezed right past the secretary and into the principal’s office. Mr. Greear was sitting right there behind his desk. Ben already had his folder out and open.
“No! You can’t!” Gene tried to intercept him, but the secretary had come around the counter and grabbed his arm, yakking about how he wasn’t allowed in there without an invite, like it was okay for Ben, but not for him.
“I think you should read this.” Ben handed the story to Principal Greear.
“It’s fiction. It’s all just fiction.” Gene yanked at his arm, but the secretary didn’t let go.
“Not all of it,” Ben shouted back. “And I’ll bet the parts I guessed at are true too.”
“Just read it.” Ben must have been real upset to talk over the principal like that. He wasn’t a total idiot, most of the time. Ben bumped Gene as he walked out. “He should know. Maybe he can do something about it.”
“Damn you! It’s my life you’re f()cking with. Mine! You have no right….”
“I have every right. I’m your friend. I can’t let people get away with it. Not Mrs. D., and not your father, and not mine either. I can’t just stand around with my hands in my pockets. Maybe it isn’t much, but at least this is something I can do.”
Gene got his arm back. He didn’t bother to answer Ben. He was half blind by his sense of betrayal, his anger, and his hurt. Friend? Not any more.
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