Prompt: The club| Word count: 750 | Genre: Drama
“Fight, fight, fight”.
The chant was taken up one by one, as the pushing and shoving spilled over into the inevitable fight. The sound was ugly. And as Gabe pulled Danny to the ground and started hitting him, it was going to get uglier.
Joe wanted to put his hands over his ears, wanted to turn away so he didn’t have to watch. But he knew the other kids already thought he was weird. He didn’t want to give them any more ammunition. He could hear his mother’s voice in his mind. She said it often enough. “For goodness sake, stand up for yourself, Joey. You’re ten now.”
The whole class was on the sports field, crowded around the bundle on the ground, dust rising from the parched grass as the boys scuffled. The summer sun beat down on the back of Joe’s neck, and he wiped at the sweat trickling down behind his collar. The collar that marked him as different. The collar that Mom insisted he wear on his oh-so-proper shirts, even in the height of summer. Another think marking him as different to the other kids in the class, who came to school in jeans and t-shirts. Not formal slacks and a proper shirt. Although Mom did let him wear a shirt sleeved one in July and August when the sun was at its fiercest.
Unable to move away in case he got noticed, Joe turned instead and focused his gaze on the birds in the trees. He bet they didn’t beat their friends into the ground as the price for being allowed to join their club.
A loud whistle brought the fight to an end, and engrossed in the antics of a pair of magpies, Joe didn’t notice the group scatter behind him. But he did notice the hand on his collar, screwing it up around his neck and cutting into his Adam’s apple. He squirmed, and twisted out of the sizeable hand. And as he did so, the collar ripped, came away from the neck seam.
He put his hand up in horror. Mom would kill him for getting his shirt torn. He turned round, his hand now balled into a fist, ready to fly.
Until he saw who’d taken hold of him. Master Whitehouse. Head of Religious Education. Tall, broad, with a mustache that Joe thought the classroom hamster would love for a nest. Such a loud, passionate voice that to be in his class was to effectively be on the receiving end of a sermon, spittle included, just the same as when Joe was in church on a Sunday. With the master’s habit of prowling up and down the rows of desks in the classroom, and slapping down from his great height whatever he was holding, he was the scourge of youngsters from the first year to the last.
Joe dropped his hand, but was too angry to mask the feelings on his face. He stepped towards the master, not caring that he barely came up to the man’s waist. “You ripped my shirt.”
Master Whitehouse stood his ground and crossed his arms in front of his ample belly. “Watch your mouth, son,” he warned. “You’re in enough trouble as it is.”
Joe frowned. Looked up. “I haven’t done anything.”
Mr Whitehouse stirred the leaf litter with his foot.
Joe glanced down to where the leaves were being moved, and noticed the droplets of blood glistening wetly in the late afternoon sun.
“Whose is this, then?”
Joe shrugged. He hadn’t seen blood drawn so he didn’t have to tell a lie.“ I don’t know. I was watching the birds.”
Mr Whitehouse peered up into the branches. “What birds? I can’t see anything.”
“That’s because you’ve scared them all away,” Joe muttered.
“What? Speak up, boy.”
What was the point. No reason to wind the master up, not with the way he was going to catch hell from his mother later for getting his shirt ripped. He took a deep breath. “Nothing, sir.”
Mr Whitehouse gave him a hard stare. “Nothing, eh? Well, in my experience, nothing is what gets boys into trouble.” He turned and headed back over the field towards the school. Looked back over his shoulder. “Come on, boy, don’t dawdle. There’s a spot in detention with your name on it.”
Joe sighed. He hadn’t wanted to be part of the fight club. And because he didn’t, he now got to be part of the detention club. Great.
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