The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Wednesday December 21, 1994
They huddled together at the base of the stairs, in the alcove of the Blessed Heart Academy's main entrance. Trails of rainwater traced obscure patterns over the stonework; irregular patches of ice concealed old scuffmarks and wads of gum. The student body was feeling rambunctious. A few students had taken to wearing Santa hats, others were singing carols, and the football team had carried the coach's car into the central courtyard and left it there with a big red bow on the hood. Five teenage boys huddled together at the base of the stairs and talked.
Rich started like he'd been slapped “He's what?”
“In the hospital.” Warren said, “Unconscious.”
Tristam asked, “What happened?”
“Like you care. How long before you start telling us he was asking for it?”
“Warren please!” Greg tried to silence their bickering with a wave of his arm, “We don't need this now.”
Yusuf said, “How did you find out?”
A teacher scurried past them, her coat pulled in tight around her.” I was supposed to call Adelphos after school.” Warren explained, “We were going to try and set up a second D&D game, one without cuntlip here.”
Tristam shook his head, “Nice. Real nice.”
“Sorry I don't deal well with people saying shit about my friends.”
“I was just repeating what I'd heard you asshole.”
Staring at his shoes, Warren spoke again, “I called there, I got his Mom- I guess she has to stay there with his brother or something- she told me that they'd found him lying in the street between two parked cars. At first they thought he'd been hit by a car but the police think that he got beat up ‘cause he had footprints all over him.”
“He’s going to be all right but he's got some kind of a concussion.”
Greg 's voice was a whisper, “Jesus...”
Tristam asked “Do they know what happened?”
“Someone beat the crap out of him that's what happened.” Rich said.
“Yeah but why?”
Warren raised his glare to Tristam again “Some people think its fun.”
“Does anyone else know-”
A shout filled the alcove. They had no time to react as a gang of boys attacked them, pushing and punching. When it was over Tristam, Rich and Yusuf were on the wet ground, Warren was doubled over gasping for breath and Greg had his hands cupped over his right eye.
The attack was over as quickly as it had begun. “I guess…” Greg pulled his glasses from a puddle of snowy mud and checked for damage, “…they heard.”
Rich retrieved his copy of The Eternal Champion from the same puddle, “This is going to be a long next few days.”
“This is going to be a long rest of the year.” Yusuf helped Warren to his feet.
Warren gulped air, “Maybe one of us will get an UZI for Christmas.”
Greg rounded on him, “Don't even joke like that.”
“We need to stop just letting them do this to us.” Tristam glared at the main entrance, in his minds eye he saw it guttering with flame and smoke, he saw blood everywhere. The Cold Inside trilled at the thought, “We need to fight back.”
Warren laughed bitterly “Yeah that worked great for me. Remember what happened after our little fight Tristam? A four day suspension and a mark on my permanent record. Then of course I had the pleasure of you and your friends pounding me every chance you could for months.”
“This is different.”
“Only for you.” Warren said, “If we fight back we lose, if we do nothing we lose, if we go to the principal we lose. Welcome to the world Tristam.”
The five minute warning bell sounded. Rich sighed heavily, “Maybe so, but at least we get two weeks off. I'll call you guys later tonight about Adelphos.”
“We should be thinking about sending him flowers or something.” Yususf followed Rich as he headed for the main entrance.
“Flowers? To a guy?”
“Maybe a fruit basket?”
“So you want him to get well soon so he can kick our asses? We should get him some Magic Cards or a Corum novel or something.”
“Well I've got an algebra exam to go fail.” Warren ducked out of the alcove and made his way to the Math and Science building. “Later.”
Tristam stared up at thick low hanging clouds, knowing that above them somewhere there was something better than this dreary twilight. He would have loved to be able to see it right now. “I really make things worse don’t I? I always make things worse.”
“Don't talk that way.” Greg said, “That's crazy. You’re not God, you don't control what goes wrong and what goes right.”