Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Story a Week 15 - Bullying

Welcome to another edition of Story a Week. This week's story took me quite a bit longer to write than the other stories that I'd written so far. It happens to be about twice as long as the average for this project, but that's not the main reason that it took so long. If you read my writing style post, I talk a little about it. It's also because I wanted this story to be good. The story is kind of a drama, but it's about a topic that is very close to me and geekdom in general. The story is about bullying.

Before you read the story, I'd like to point out that I wasn't bullied overly much in high school like a lot of my friends and fellow geeks worldwide were. I figured out early that if you don't let them get away with bullying you that they'll find an easier target. I never had to fight physically either. My last fight was sometime in middle school and it was in my neighborhood, not at school and was definitely not a bullying situation.

But, I digress. Bullying is for me, and most parents that I can think of, an important topic. My kids are little, but I don't want them to be bullied now, or at any time in their future. I'll try my best to teach them the lessons that I learned and help them on their way, but I can't always be there to help.

Anyway, read the story and let me know what you think.


Doug sighed heavily as the school bus pulled up in front of him. 'Time to start another day of hell,' he thought to himself. He took a deep breath to try to steady the butterflies in his stomach as he stepped onto the bus.

From the back, he heard two of the jocks yell out, "It's Duuuuh-g!"

Doug hated the way they turned his perfectly normal name into an insult. He tried to ignore them as he looked nervously around for a seat. 'It must be my lucky day,' he thought to himself as he spotted an empty seat halfway to the back of the bus. He sat down and breathed a sigh of relief as the jocks seemed satisfied with their first jibe of the day and left him alone.

No one sat with him the rest of the drive to the high school, but Doug didn't even notice. He had his head buried in "The Return of the King". He'd read it many times before, but it still captivated him. He glanced up when the bus came to a stop and was surprised to see the school outside the window.

He quickly put the book into his backpack and took his place in the line to get off the bus. He entered the school and tried to make his way up to his locker. Every minute or two someone purposely ran into him even though the common area wasn't very crowded. Doug took it all in stride as he made his way to the locker. He entered his combination into the lock on his locker and opened it up. He saw several pieces of paper laying on the floor of the locker and bent to pick them up.

He opened up one of the pages and saw a crudely drawn picture depicting himself and a couple of his male friends in lurid embraces. Angrily, he crumpled the paper up and stashed it in a plastic bag he kept in his locker for garbage.

He was startled by the first bell ringing a moment later. He placed the other two pieces of paper on the top shelf of his locker for later perusal and slammed his locker shut. His first class was biology and it was on the other side of the building so he had to hurry.

Doug was in such a hurry that he didn't see the leg that tripped him. As he picked himself up off of the floor, he heard a couple of jocks laughing at him. Doug shook it off and hurried to biology class.

He smiled for the first time that day as he entered the class and saw his friend Jason. Jason was sitting at his desk with his head in another copy of "The Return of the King". The two of them were reading it in parallel. "How far are you?" Doug asked as he sat next to Jason.

Jason looked up and replied, "Sam and Frodo are in Cirith Ungol."

"Oh, that's it? They're just getting to Mount Doom..." Doug stopped talking when a girl walked in the room. It wasn't just any girl, but the girl of Doug's dreams. Her name was Lindsay and Doug felt the world get a little less crappy when she walked in the room. The world seemed to slow to a crawl whenever Doug was even near her.

Jason watched as Doug stared at Lindsay as she walked across the room to her desk. He tapped Doug on the shoulder and laughed as his friend practically jumped out of his chair.

Doug blushed as his friend said, "Whatcha starin' at, Doug?"

Before Doug could say anything the teacher walked in the room. After setting his things down and doing the roll call, the teacher said, "We're going to do a lab today." The class moaned and the teacher said, "I've randomly chosen your partners." Another moan.

The teacher started reading off names and tables in alphabetical order. Doug didn't pay much attention until the teacher read off Jason's name. "Jason, table three." A few moments later, the teacher said, "Doug, table two."

Doug wasn't paying attention enough to know who else was going to be at table two; he just knew that Jason wasn't going to be his partner today. After the teacher finished reading the names, everyone got up and moved to the lab area.

As Doug was walking to table two, one of the jocks in the class blocked his path. Doug tried to step around him, but the jock moved to block him again. Doug sighed and looked up at him. "What can I do for you, Jeff?"

Jeff stared hard at Doug. "I know that you have a silly crush or something on Lindsay. Don't try anything funny during the lab, or I'll beat your ass in." Jeff took a half step towards Doug and menacingly said, "Got it, dumb shit?"

Doug nodded emphatically. "No funny business," he said. Butterflies began fluttering around in his stomach. Doug barely noticed when Jeff purposely bumped into him as he passed by.

Doug saw Lindsay sitting at table two and the butterflies quickly became jet fighters engaged in a dog fight inside of his stomach. Nervously, he walked over to the table and sat down without a word.

Lindsay, who had been writing in her notebook, looked up and smiled at Doug. "Hi, I'm Lindsay," she said.

Lindsay's smile was disarming. Doug's heart leapt into his throat and threatened to choke him. "I'm Doug," he managed to squeak out.

The teacher said, "We're going to dissect a frog today. Jake and Matt, can you help me pass out the equipment?"

The two conscripted students began passing out scalpels, goggles and other dissection equipment. Lindsay looked excited and said, "Oh, we get to dissect frogs? That's awesome!"

Doug was taken aback by her attitude. Most of the girls in the class were making faces about their assignment. Doug stammered out, "You-you're excited about the prospect of cutting open a frog?"

Lindsay nodded emphatically. "Oh, yes. I'm not sure what career I'll be going for after college, but I think that I'll be majoring in Biology." She paused and shyly smiled. "I really want to be a biologist or zoologist. I think anyway. Who knows? I've always loved science. Look at me babbling. Do you know what you want to do?"

Doug shrugged. He was starting to feel more at ease, though he was still quite nervous. "I don't know. My parents want me to be a lawyer like they are, but I'm not one for arguing. I hate conflict. I'd much rather design video games or, oh, I don't really know."

The teacher came up to their table and plopped a dead frog into their specimen tub. "Thanks!" Lindsay said to him.

She must have seen Doug's reaction to the dead frog. "Do you want me to do the cutting and you can fill out the worksheet?"

Doug gulped and looked up from the frog. "Yeah, I think that would be for the best," he said as he pushed the tub towards Lindsay.

The rest of the lab went well. Lindsay did all the cutting and removing of organs as Doug tried his best not to look too closely and filled out the worksheet. After a while, Doug realized that Lindsay was being somewhat flirtatious. He tried to look casually at Jeff and noticed that the jock was staring angrily in Doug's direction. Doug quickly looked away and concentrated on finishing the worksheet.

When they were finished with the dissection, Lindsay said, "It was fun doing the lab with you, Doug. You're a good lab partner." She put a hand on Doug's arm which was resting on the table.

Doug stared down at her hand on his arm and said, "Thanks. I did have a lot of fun doing this, too."

Lindsay smiled at him one more time and got up from the table. "I'll see you later," she said before returning to her desk.

Doug stared after her. He quickly glanced around for any sign of Jeff, but he didn't seem to be in the classroom any longer. Doug shrugged to himself and returned to his desk. Jason was already sitting in his own desk and looking at Doug worriedly.

"Doug..." Jason began.

Doug sighed. He knew what was coming. "Yes, Jason?"

Jason wouldn't meet Doug's eyes. "Jeff is going to kill you. He snuck out of class a few minutes ago. I heard him tell one of the other neanderthal's that he's going to get a couple of friends and wait for you in the hall."

Doug looked over at where Lindsay was sitting and smiled to himself. "Totally worth it," he said to Jason.

Jason shook his head. "Whatever you say, man."

The bell rang and everyone proceeded to the door. Jason and Doug parted ways outside the door. "Good luck," Jason said to Doug.

Doug smiled and shrugged at his friend. He turned and saw Jeff standing a couple of feet in front of him, an evil smile on his face. Doug stopped and took a step back. Someone behind him grabbed both his arms and said, "We'd like to go for a little walk, Dougy."

Doug didn't think he could escape the strong hands that held him, so he said, "Whatever you say, it's not like I have a choice."

"Good boy," the muscle said. Another linebackeresque student came alongside of Doug and the four of them walked together towards the special needs classrooms where there was less foot traffic.

A few minutes later, Jeff looked around to make sure no one was in sight and nodded to the other two jocks. Jeff stood over Doug and growled, "I told you not to get too friendly with Lindsay, dork. Now you're going to pay for it!"

Jeff punched Doug hard in the gut. When Doug doubled over, Jeff rammed his fist into the back of Doug's head. Doug fell to the ground in a heap and put his hands on his head to try to protect it from the blows that he knew were coming. Instead, he heard a yell come from down the hall and he heard footsteps running down the hall in the opposite direction.

A moment later, Doug felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. Someone said, "You okay, son?"

Doug looked up to see one of the special education teachers looking down at him. "Uh, yeah, I think so," Doug said. He tried to sit up and gave up on the idea when his head started to swoon. "Um, maybe not," he mumbled.

The next few minutes were a blur to Doug as the teacher called down the hall to another teacher. The two of them picked Doug up and carried him to the nurse's office. Doug started to become more aware of the situation and the throbbing in his head as the nurse looked him over. "What happened?" Doug asked.

The nurse said, "Someone hit you pretty hard on the head. You're not showing any signs of a concussion, but I'm going to keep you here all the same."

"Oh," was all Doug could say.

The nurse shook her head at him and said, "The principal wants to talk to you. Are you up for it?"

Doug gulped and nodded, then quickly wished he hadn't. The nurse said, "I'll send him in with some Tylenol."

A moment later, the principal came in with two small cups. One contained Tylenol and the other contained water. He handed them to Doug, who quickly downed them. "What happened, son?" the principal asked.

"I'm not sure, sir," Doug replied nervously.

The principal looked at Doug sternly. "You know that we have a zero tolerance policy for fighting on the school grounds, don't you Doug?"

Doug nodded and then immediately wished he hadn't. His head started pounding again. The principal repeated his question, "What happened?"

Doug replied again, "I don't know."

The principal sighed and said, "I'm going to have to suspend you for fighting, Doug... That is, unless you tell me who did this to you."

Doug's mind raced. He didn't know what to do. The principal shot Doug an impatient look and Doug finally said, "Alright. It was Jeff. I had a lab today with his girlfriend and he beat me up for being friendly with her."

The principal shook his head. "Jeff's a hothead, that's for sure. A lot of the football players are. They're going to be awfully disappointed when I've suspended their star quarterback for two weeks."

He must have seen the worried look on Doug's face. He added, "Don't worry, Doug. They won't know that you told me about this. There are cameras in that hallway. We caught the whole thing on video."

Doug was confused. He said, "Then why did you need me to tell you about it?"

The principal walked over and sat down on the cot next to Doug. He put his arm around Doug's shoulders and said, "Son, you have to realize that this world is filled with people who will bully you. The best way to handle them is to stand up for yourself. If I had let you get away with protecting them because you were afraid of a reprisal, I would have been doing you a disservice." The principal stared off into space, as if looking into the past. "I was once a lot like you, Doug. I was bullied a lot as a teenager. My father found out about it and taught me the lesson that I'm trying to tell you. Don't let them get to you. If they see that they can control you by fear or fighting, they will. If they don't see that fear in you, they are likely to decide that you're too much trouble than it's worth."

Doug felt something that he hadn't felt since the first time he walked into the high school a little over three years ago. He felt... unafraid. The feeling was new to him, but he liked it. The principal patted him on the shoulder and stood up. "Now, I do want to warn you that it might not always work. Some people are just jerks for the sake of being jerks. I think, though, that if you stand up to Jeff and his buddies that they will back down."

For the first time ever, Doug looked forward to the next time he would see Jeff, though at the same time he was glad it wouldn't be for at least two weeks.

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