The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Monday November 28, 1994
As far as Tristam was concerned there was nothing worse than returning to school after a three day weekend. It left his mental routine shaken and by the end of his first period he was counting the seconds until school was done.
It was third period, Algebra class and he was struggling to stay awake. The teacher was Mrs. Dover and she was older than time itself and tended to throw chalk at students she didn't think were paying attention.
Tristam copied down the formulas on the blackboard and tried to keep pace with the lecture. There were only twenty minutes left to go in class, if he could just hang on. At least this was simply normal exhaustion, nothing related to his extracurricular activities.
Almost ten years. He thought with a shudder, Almost ten years trapped in a bottle full of rainwater.
Friday night's lesson had left him too creeped out to sleep. The way Reginald had wailed when Phil had tossed him offhandedly back into the trunk. Had he heard other bottles clink in there? He didn’t want to think about it, but it had been all he could think about.
Imagine your whole life gone like that. Imagine the loneliness.
Even worse than Reginald had been Phil, the way he had gloated and laughed. Tristam had always known that the old man was crazy and mean but he had never suspected how crazy and how mean. The way he reveled in his cruelties.
Oh, and like I didn't.
That's not the same, its just not. That was a dog, these are people-
-“…counting the steps I make my way up to my apartment a heavy bag of groceries in each hand. Short of breath I keep myself moving afraid to miss my game. I should have planned better I should have planned better…”
-Pen and notebook clattered to the floor, Tristam flinched at his desk with an audible gasp. The other students giggled at him and made derisive whispers; Mrs. Dover growled a warning. Tristam mumbled an apology and bent to retrieve them.
What was that? Did I fall asleep?
Quickly adopting the pose of a diligent student Tristam waited until the teacher had stopped watching him. In his head however he was thinking of anything but equations and the value of X.
Was I dreaming? He wondered Am I going nuts?
Or has Phil decided to start screwing with me now? The thought was enough to make him drop his pen. Why would the old man do something like that? He seemed to like Tristam in a spiteful, condescending sort of way-
-“…two steps from my front door the pain strikes. It stabs me in the chest blossoming down my arm. A plastic bag slips from my spasming hands, jars and tumble down the steps. A second wave of pain throws me off balance, I stumble forward, trying to catch myself. I can't breathe. I can't speak. I look up and down the block but everyone is inside, having dinner or watching he big game. There is no one to see no one to help…”
-A piece of chalk ricocheted off his math textbook.
Mrs. Dover glared at him “There is no sleeping in this class Mr. Bloom!”
There was no giggling now, all the other students froze. Mrs. Dover had a well-deserved reputation for group reprisals in the form of homework. The long uncomfortable silence that filled the classroom was broken when Tristam vomited all over his desk.