The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Tuesday November 15, 1994
The first snowfall of the season had the student body of Blessed Heart both excited and disheartened. The weather had put many in the mind of ski trips and holiday cheer but for every student making lists and plans there was another angry that there hadn’t been enough downfall to cancel classes.
The Magnificent Seven hadn’t been able to meet in their usual morning spot; the front steps made them too obvious a target for snowball throwers. Besides Jason the janitor was shoveling out front and seemed eager for conversation. The Magnificent Seven warily made their way to their homerooms, there was always lunch.
But the cafeteria was louder than usual for some reason, it seemed like everyone was shouting to be heard over everyone else. Drew, Rich and Yusuf were talking about this week’s episode of the X-Files. Adelphos and Warren were discussing the game, trying to figure out a way to take out the black dragon. Tristam was sitting quietly, contemplating. He had been absent Monday and he still didn’t look all that good today. There were dark rings under his bloodshot eyes and he seemed to be barely paying attention.
Greg was worried for him. Yusuf, Rich, Warren, Adelphos and Drew had been getting picked on for years, they had developed a thick skin for all but the most outrageous of assaults. Tristam wasn’t used to it and they were getting to him, his former friends were chipping him apart piece by piece. “Hey Tristam.” he said, “You feeling OK?”
Tristam gave him a devilish smile, “Linda Kaspary isn’t wearing any underwear.”
“Wh-what?” Greg glanced up to the front table and then looked away blushing, “How can you tell?”
“One of the Freshmen girls dared her.” Tristam laughed, “And Evan? He sells pot to half the football team. He keeps baggies of it in a pair of old cleats he keeps at the bottom of his locker.”
“How would you know? Are you one of his customers?” Greg asked. “I’d be careful starting rumors if I were you.”
“I’m only repeating what I heard. I happened to eavesdrop on a few conversations during study hall. It’s amazing what people will do or say when they think you’re not there.”
“Tristam don’t let them make you into something you’re not.”
“They think they have power Greg. They think they can just write us off. We can get back at them.”
“Christ teaches us to turn the other cheek.”
“Jesus never went to high school.”
Rich interrupted, “Well, if he had gone to high school he’d have been great for the swim team.
“And the refreshment committee,” Drew said.
Yusuf shook his head, “I think turning water to wine is grounds for suspension.”
“Guys,” Tristam began, “we can fight them. We’re smarter. We have less to loose. We have fucking karma on our side.”
Warren shook his head sadly, “Is this a Revenge of the Nerds thing? That was a movie you know. Not real.”
“Besides, they were in college.” Drew said, “Anyone can get laid in college.”
Yusuf said, “I need to graduate early.”
“You’re not listening!” Tristam stood, knocking his chair back. His angry shout echoed through the suddenly silent cafeteria “Why aren’t you listening?”
“Because-” Kenny Wurman shouted from the front of the room, “- you fuck dead dogs!”
The cafeteria aides pounced on him but it was too late, everyone was laughing; everyone but the Magnificent Seven. There were tears glimmering in the corners of Tristam’s eyes but he didn’t cry. Greg thought he would run from the room but he didn’t budge. He just stood there and glared.
Finally one of the cafeteria aides pulled Tristam from the room. “I knew it.” Warren said, “Total meltdown.”
Rich nodded sagely, “I was worried about this.”
“Why didn’t you warn me? I would have brought my camcorder.”
Greg looked up from righting Tristam’s chair, “This is our friend you’re talking about.”
“He’s a nice guy when he wants to be,” Adelphos finished his chips and crumpled up the bag, “But he’s still a mean little snob that’s finally getting what he deserves. That’s your karma.”
Drew said, “That’s a little harsh.”
By the time order had been restored in the cafeteria, it was time for the next class period to begin. Tristam never came back, they left his half-eaten lunch sitting on the table.