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Pastiche: No One Cares About Him
I watch him, in awe, from the corner of the lunch area. He smiles happily over a book, reading carefully, meticulously, mouthing the words, before turning the page-- being careful not to rip it.
Sammy, they call out. Sammysammysammy.
He looks up, startled. Blue eyes behind thick glasses covered with dark hair widen, and he tries to scurry away before they get him. Tries to slip through, but they catch his slim body before he can. He whimpers pathetically.
They laugh loudly-- a boisterous group, they are. Big boys, hulking over everyone, with squinty eyes and matted hair and dirty breath. Dirty words give you dirty breath, Mum says.
Sammy, they say. Whatcha reading? They dissolve into laughter as if this-- whatcha reading-- was the greatest punchline to be thought of.
He shakes his head. I’m not reading anything, he mumbles. Blue eyes dart around, looking for escape, pleading for someone to save him. His eyes catch me.
My breath catches. He’s so scared, so scared...
Another loud jeer wakes me from my thoughts. The boys have pulled his hair so he’s forced to look into their eyes.
And I’m startled. Suddenly, he’s looking defiant. Despite being slowest in the class and talking funny and not having any friends, he stares into their eyes and challenges them. Hit me, he says. Hit me, he says louder.
The lunch area quiets. A girl, twirling shiny hair around her finger, eyes glinting malevolently, giggles.
I want to cry.
But I can’t, because I have to see what happens. What did you say, the boys ask him. They shake him. Wanna say that again?
His defiant eyes hide again, and blue eyes are looking scared. But defiant eyes come back, and he says, without his usual slowness or funny pronunciation-- HIT ME.
Some of the boys looked surprised, but the one holding him replies. Gladly, he says, and pulls his fist back and lets it fly forward.
He stumbles, but stands up. Is that all you’ve got, he whispers, but we can still hear it echoing around the silent lunch area.
The big boy’s gaze hardens. His other fist flies.
Silently, the students watch the boy pick himself up and take his book and turn around, limping away.
He looks at me before he turns the corner. Like he knows I could’ve done something, like I’ve let him down by sitting quietly.
Anna. Anna. Annabelle. Annabelle. Anna. ANNABELLE LEE, CAN YOU HEAR ME. My eyes blink-- once, twice. Yes?
Are you okay, they ask, before excitedly discussing the recent turn of events. One of them snickers. He should go sit somewhere else, she says. No one cares about him.
No one cares about him.