THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Tuesday November 8, 1994
The cafeteria was almost quiet, the day’s presentations on the death penalty and Amnesty International had left most of the students feeling subdued. Things at the front table seemed unchanged however; the only real difference was that Monique was now practically sitting in Evan’s lap.
Rich pushed his half-eaten sandwich away, “If I hear about the death penalty one more time I’m going to kill someone.”
“Guess you got those descriptions of what the electric chair does to a person huh?” Adelphos had skipped lunch.
Warren looked pale, but he was still eating “Ugh. Did they have to be so... graphic?”
“They were truthful.” Greg said, “Television and the movies have glorified death. Death is ugly.”
“Death is only the beginning.” Yusuf closed his eyes as he spoke, “Allah takes away men's souls upon their death, and the souls of the living during their sleep. Those that are doomed He keeps with Him and restores the others for a time ordained.”
“Cool,” Greg said, “I gotta read the Koran someday.”
“It’s a fascinating book.” The Magnificent Seven all looked up to see the janitor standing by their table, none of them had heard or seen him approach.
Warren said slowly, “Hello… Jason isn’t it?”
The janitor nodded and continued talking, “The book of God’s eternal and uncreated word, if you subscribe to such things. I’ve always been partial to Zoroastrianism myself.”
“That’s an interesting choice,” Greg stared at the janitor with bemusement.
“I dated a Zoroastrian girl, her name was Rio,” The janitor nodded, “she taught me a lot. She was double jointed, a failed escape artist.”
Tristam asked, “Do you talk to the other kids this way?”
“Oh heavens no,” the janitor smiled, “But I can tell this is where the interesting conversations take place. Eh, Warren?”
“My whole life is made up of moments like this.” Warren grumbled.
The janitor frowned for a moment and then said, “Well I must be off. Those toilets aren’t going to clean themselves… but imagine if they could. I’d be out of a job.”
Rich said, “Yeah goodbye.”
They watched the janitor leave then Drew asked, “What is with that guy?”
“I think he’s like a frustrated guidance councilor,” Adelphos said.
“Frustrated guidance councilor from Hell,” Warren shook his head. “If he keeps trying to talk to me I’m changing schools.”
Tristam smiled, “Could it really be that easy?”
Evan kept playfully flicking Monique’s ear, she would squeal and push him away. Drew noticed Tristam staring and commented, “Disgusting isn’t it?”
“What does she see in him?” He sighed.
“He’s a handsome sociopath. What’s not to love?” Warren said.
Adelphos nodded, “That’s always been my secret.”
“Bet he loves her legs wrapped around him, huh Tristam?” Warren said.
“You fat fuck...” Tristam was almost out of his chair when he heard Drew speak.
“He doesn’t love her. He’s got another girlfriend on the side.”
Tristam sat back down, the panic bled from Warren’s face “Really?”
“And how would you know that?” Greg asked.
Adelphos answered for her, “They’re neighbors remember?”
“So...” Tristam leaned in closer, “Who is it?”
“I’m not telling that,” she ran a hand over the birthmark that sprawled across her right cheek. “He’d know it was me that said something.”
“Drew, please. This could be sweet. You heard what he did to me.”
She shook her head “I’m sorry. I can’t”
“Don’t you see we can get back at Evan with this? All of us for all the crap he’s pulled,” Tristam looked around the table for support.
“Count me out. I’m not into revenge,” Greg turned his attention back to his chicken salad.
“I’m all for revenge,” Adelphos smiled, “Maybe we could blackmail him. Make him wear a little blue sailor suit to school or something.”
Rich thought aloud, “Think of the logistics of a plan like that. Where are we going to find a little blue sailor suit in this town?”
Adelphos shrugged, “We could always borrow one of Warren’s.”
“It always has to come back to me doesn’t it?” Warren said with disgust.
“You know guys,” Greg said, “the meek will inherit the Earth.”
Rich snickered, “Not in our lifetime.”
“Look Tristam, you’re new at the whole social outcast thing so I’ll try and explain,” Warren spoke as though he was addressing a child. “If we lay low and take our beatings with no squealing to the headmaster or fighting back usually... usually by the end of semester break they start to lay off on us. If we go picking fights or fighting back it will never end.”
“That’s a bad attitude man,” Adelphos rolled his eyes.
“Come on what did fighting back ever get us?”
“They’ll never respect us. Hell you punched Tristam and he doesn’t respect any of us,” Warren pointed across the table nearly toppling Yusuf’s thermos.
At times like this Tristam longed for the good old days when he could just smack Warren, “Maybe if you respected me-”
“Give it a rest guys,” Drew said with a strange little smile, “I’m not saying anything.”
Greg put his hand on Tristam’s shoulder, “Let’s drop it, please?”
Tristam pushed Greg’s hand away and stood. As he turned to go he made eye contact with Evan. Evan leered at Tristam and pulled Monique in for a kiss.