THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Wednesday June 23, 1993
Warren barreled through the wooded campus of Blessed Heart, dodging off the well-worn paths used by students and crashing through the flowering shrubs and evergreen trees. His white dress shirt was smeared with chips of eggshell and spattered with yolk. His pants were caked with mud. His whole body felt like it might give out at any moment, but he had to keep running.
They were still after him. He could hear them at his back, shouting and laughing, calling him ‘Wideload and ‘Fatass’. His only hope now was at the old chapel. He was too far from the main buildings to double back.
All in all it was a pretty fucked up way to be spending the last day of school. He’d finished his finals with a glow of accomplishment, knowing that despite all the social and physical setbacks he’d suffered he was ending his Freshman year on a high note. A’s on everything but gym, but even the gym teacher had given him a B- for effort and attendance. Warren knew that once his father saw those grades a new Macintosh Computer would be his.
But the Pretty Boys had taken all that away from him, chasing him and throwing rancid eggs. That was the problem with the school, they used some cheap chartered bus line that could only run its routes once in the morning and then back in the afternoon. Finals week was all half days. That left him and every other student at Blessed Heart with almost four hours to kill and a lot of students seemed to kill that time with pranks. Drew had had her locker broken into and vandalized. Greg had been hit with a water balloon filled with what they all hoped was gravy. Someone had ripped one of Yusuf’s shoes right off his foot while he was sitting on the can. Rich had fallen asleep in the library to find chewing gum in his hair.
Somehow Warren had managed avoid the abuse, but now he had to wonder if they were just saving him for last. He cursed his complacency. If only he hadn’t gone to watch the girl’s soccer team practice! If only he’d stayed close to the protection of the teachers and hall monitors.
With a wheezing gasp he crashed through the brambles and made his way across one of the other athletic fields, the one the K through sixth grade students used for recess and kickball. Another egg impacted on the back of his head, the smell was nauseating. Part of him screamed out to turn and fight. Maybe if it had been just one of them he would have, but the Pretty Boys were like wolves- they always ran in packs.
Almost there. He panted, Almost there.
Diving back into the woods he heard eggs shattering on trees and wondered to himself how many of the damned things they were carrying. A dozen? Two Dozen? His lungs were on fire now, it was worse than when the gym teacher had made the class try out cross-country running. He saw the feeble-looking sycamores that ringed the old chapel and its cemetery and pushed himself to go just a little bit farther.
Blessed Heart had acres of land. Most of it was left to grow wild but a small section near the gymnasium had been divided into a quartet of athletic fields. The last field bordered a cemetery, fifty modest graves for nuns that had worked and died here in the early part of the century. A small disused chapel slouched in the furthest corner of the cemetery, there was no door and broken glass rimmed the stone window frames. The roof had collapsed during a snowstorm in nineteen eighty-eight causing irreparable damage but the Blessed Heart Alumni and the school’s administration were still debating what to do about it. While they did the building rotted quietly, becoming a haven for small animals and students sneaking away for a drink or a smoke.
The very sight of it bolstered Warren’s strength, he crashed through the trees, egg yolk stinging his eyes.
Let him be here. Please let him be here!
He crossed the cemetery with nightmarish slowness, the Pretty Boys yowling at his back. He would have called out but he had no breath left.
There was a flash of pain as Warren’s foot smacked into a loose stone. He fell hard, a ripping sound filling his ears.
Another pair of pants shot to Hell.
And suddenly they were on him, pelting him with jeers and eggs. The Pretty Boys with their perfect pedigrees and their slender waistlines. Bobby Hilton, Kenny Wurman, Evan Crawford and their leader and the biggest jerk of all, Tristam Bloom.
“Fuckers!” Warren screamed tearfully, “My Dad will sue! You’re gonna pay for these clothes.”
“Hey look!” Tristam said, “Tubbo’s crying. Guess he doesn’t like scrambled eggs.”
“Awww I’ll buy you some new clothes Tubbo,” Evan sneered, “what tent factory do your parents shop at?”
“Tent factory!” Bobby screamed with laughter.
Kenny threw his last egg, “Look! His pants split right up the back!”
“I say we strip him,” Tristam drew closer “leave him here in his undershorts.”
“Just leave me alone. I won’t tell anyone. Just stop. No more!” Warren tried to stand only to have Kenny and Tristam shove him back down again.
“Think he’s got harpoon scars?” Evan followed Tristam’s lead.
Bobby was laughing so hard he could barely stand, “Harpoon scars!”
“Strip him?” Adelphos strode out of the shelter of the decrepit chapel, a cigarette hanging out of his lips. His navy blue tie was loosened, a gold cross hung around his neck, “You guys call us fags but you get up to the freakiest shit all on your own.
“Oh shit.” Kenny blanched.
Adelphos pitched his cigarette at Bobby Hilton, “You assholes got nothing better to do than start shit?”
Warren almost sobbed with relief. Tristam’s grin widened, “Smoking on school grounds Psycho? That can get you expelled.”
“Fuckin’ with my friends can get you worse,” he stepped between in front of Warren.
The other boys looked like they wanted to back off, but Tristam kept them in place with a stare, “If I were you I’d watch my mouth, it’s four against one here.”
Scraping the worst of the tears and yolk from his face Warren stood beside Adelphos, “Four against two.”
The Pretty Boys had a good laugh at this. Evan called, “If we count your ass cheeks the odds are even Tubbo.”
Adelphos shook his head, “Just get lost, playtime’s over children.”
“You don’t tell me where to go.” Tristam advanced, “I tell people like you where to go.”
“Oh really?” Adelphos stood his ground, his posture casual.
“You really think you can take all four of us on... spic?” Tristam gestured to the others
“We’re not afraid of you.” Warren glanced to Adelphos, “Right?”
Tristam backhanded Warren, the slap echoing.
Warren reeled, almost falling over and then catching himself.
“That was a mistake.” Adelphos lashed out, his fist catching Tristam in the gut. Bobby and Kenny held back but Evan threw himself at Adelphos in a classic football tackle.
Too stunned to do anything but watch the scuffle going on at his feet Warren didn’t even see Bobby coming for him and the first punch landed squarely on his nose.
“Yeah!” Kenny jumped in place, “Get ‘em!”
Evan was screeching, Adelphos had him by the eyelid. Tristam was curled into a ball. Warren took a swing at Bobby but it went wild brushing his cheek. Bobby hit him in the chest but Warren barely felt it.
“Tubbo swings like a girl!” Kenny was laughing again.
The screeching had become begging, Evan’s hands scrabbling at the fingers pinching his eyelid. Adelphos he let go. He let Evan breathe a sigh of relief, then he kicked him.
Warren’s second punch went even wider, missing Bobby entirely and catching Kenny dead center in his forehead. Kenny went down with a yelp. Warren stared in amazement. Adelphos charged past him, grabbing Bobby by his tie and yanking hard, spinning him once in a semi circle and sending him flying into one of the crumbling headstones.
“Anyone else feeling froggy?” Adelphos was dancing on the balls of his feet like a boxer, he wasn’t even breathing hard.
Cursing, bloodied and dirty the Pretty Boys retreated back the way they had come. Warren didn’t even notice, he was still staring at his fist. He couldn’t stop smiling.