HumpDay Quickie #24

Posted: June 18, 2014 in Hump-Day Quickies
Tags: , , ,

Order

by Beth Deitchman

Ephram hid on the stairs, peering through the balusters’ polished wood. He took delicate breaths, afraid Miss Franklin would hear and then drag him forward to await the Headmaster’s annoyance. Miss Franklin nudged the last chair into place and stood back, counting. When she left, her heels made precise clicks across the tiles, regular as the rows of chairs.

Silence settled over the Common Room, and Ephram slid from his hiding place. He limped to the back row, grateful no one was there to see him. He took his chair and waited, feet dangling, back straight. Perfectly still.

The hall clock struck, and the ceiling boomed with boys’ feet. Ephram kept his small face passive, his brown eyes fixed forward as the boys clomped down the stairs, a wave of noise preceding them.

“Oy! Gimpy!” Laughter met Anderson’s insult. “Why aren’t you standing?”

Ephram closed his eyes. Inhaled. Exhaled. Opened his eyes and stood. His left leg quivered.

“Look, lads,” Anderson taunted. “He can barely stand. Poor ol’ Gimpy!”

Ephram fought the tears. If he let even one fall, Anderson would pounce, and no one would stop him. So Ephram stood, shaking, his skin paler with each heartbeat. But something shifted. A small kernel of anger, growing in his belly for weeks, bloomed.

“What are you afraid of?” Ephram said.

The big blonde boy’s eyes widened. “What did you say, Gimp?”

“What are you afraid of, Anderson?”

Anderson stepped forward, pink, meaty fist raised. “I’m not afraid of anything, Gimpy. How about you?”

Ephram met Anderson’s cruel stare and smiled. Someone whistled, low and long. Ephram laughed. He tried to control himself, but great peals erupted from him. Anderson’s fist met Ephram’s stomach, sending him sprawling. Two chairs clattered to the floor. No one moved or spoke or breathed. As one the boys closed their eyes, waiting for the rhythmic clicking. When it came, they were almost relieved.

“Pick them up,” Miss Franklin spat.

Ephram scrambled to his feet. Two older boys righted the chairs.

“Sit down.”

They obeyed.

“The Headmaster shall hear about this.”

Ephram glanced at Anderson; sweat trickled down the blonde boy’s cheek. Ephram smiled.

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