Jocks Always Win, Don’t They?
Che could feel his stomach rumbling as he scampered into the hallway, realizing he only had a few minutes left until he’d be late for his next class. Mr. Polk had already been frustrated with him for goofing off the previous day with Malik and Antonio, so he needed to be extra careful not to draw attention to himself.
He hadn’t even gotten halfway down the hall when he felt someone smack him on the back of the head. He turned to see Malik and Antonio standing there, laughing at the look of surprise on Che’s face.
“What was that for?” Che asked, rubbing the back of his head.
“Did you do the homework?” Malik asked, not even answering his question.
Even as a high school sophomore, Malik was a sight to behold, the epitome of a laid-back teenager. Red-flavored locs hung down to his shoulders, and he always had a mischievous twinkle in his eye. In fact, those eyes seemed to be the only thing that matched his energy.
His wardrobe was a running joke among their friends, a hodgepodge of oversized T-shirts, most of them bearing some cartoon character or another, and pants that had long given up the hope of ever reaching his ankles. He was perhaps a little too carefree, but at least he was always up for a good joke or two.
Antonio, too, was sixteen, but contrary to Malik, his small stature gave him the appearance of someone much younger. His short, stocky build was often hidden under baggy hoodies that sported different video game logos, his favorite being Super Mario.
Glasses with thick black frames perpetually sat on the bridge of his nose, magnifying his round, hazel eyes that always seemed to be assessing the world as though it were a game level he was trying to conquer. His dark hair was cropped close to his head, a low-maintenance style that spoke to his disinterest in fashion.
Always seen with a handheld game console, Antonio’s attire wasn’t the only indication of his love for gaming; even his fingers, swift and nimble, constantly moved as if hitting invisible arcade buttons. His complexion, pale from countless hours spent indoors, completed the picture of a quintessential video game nerd.
“Did YOU do it?” Che asked back.
“Dude, you know he didn’t,” Antonio smirked as he looked up from the game he was playing. “I don’t think he’s turned in anything all semester.”
“Just copy mine real quick while Polk’s talking,” Che quickly pulled out his textbook and handed it to Malik. “You’re gonna fail at this point.”
“Man, so what?” Malik rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. “That class is too hard anyway!”
“That’s your answer to everything,” Che grumbled.
“You gonna lecture me or let me copy?” Malik asked, a smirk playing on his lips.
Che shook his head, but couldn’t help laughing. He knew Malik was never going to be serious about anything, especially school. But at least he was there, and in the end that’s all that mattered.
“Alright, let’s go,” Che started off down the hallway. “You know we can’t be late again.”
Malik and Antonio followed suit, talking about the latest game they’d all been playing together. Che was never that good at video games, but never shied away from playing with his friends, even if they always ended up beating him.
They were just about to turn into the corridor that led to Mr. Polk’s class before coming to an abrupt halt, stopped in their tracks by a large group of students blocking their way. Che groaned and rolled his eyes. He knew what was about to happen; a few of the kids in the hallway were about to start fighting just like always.
“Well, I guess we don’t have to worry about being late,” Che murmured, and the three friends inched closer to the commotion to see what was going on.
Che was barely able to make out two of the football jocks looming over a scrawny figure, their faces contorted with rage. It was Ed and Samuel, football jocks known for picking on students who dared to stand out. Che felt his heart sink as he realized this was not the first time this had happened.
“The hell are you doing in our hallway, you smelly freak?” Samuel hissed through gritted teeth as he kicked the boy in his side. The boy didn’t try to dodge or make a sound. It was almost as if he was simply waiting for it all to be over with.
Ed stepped closer and leaned in towards the scrawny figure. “Hey, weirdo! What’d you say?”
Ed, at seventeen, was intimidating to say the least. He was the stereotypical high school jock, standing tall at six feet, his robust frame a testament to the countless hours spent training on the football field. His dark hair was slicked back today, allowing his piercing blue eyes framed by prominent eyebrows to be the main focus of his face. Dressed almost perpetually in his letterman jacket, he always had a steely, predatory gaze that seemed to challenge anyone he looked at.
Samuel, although not as tall as Ed, was formidable in his own right. His hair, a shade of fiery red, was always neatly cropped and perfectly complemented his light skinned complexion. His physical prowess was only enhanced by his constant attire of football jerseys and sweatpants, making him a constant reminder of the school’s athletic focus.
Even though bullies didn’t typically act like the ones in the movies Che’d seen, this was still West Texas, after all. Football was as much of a religion here as anything else. A high school jock was an automatic town celebrity.
Che glanced at Antonio and Malik, and the two immediately shook their heads and held their hands up.
“Not getting involved,” Antonio muttered under his breath.
Malik nodded in agreement, but Che turned back to the scene, feeling a sense of indignation. He couldn’t just stand there and watch some kid get bullied without doing anything.
“Did you see him a minute ago?” Samuel asked, pointing at the scrawny figure. “He was talking back to us! We can’t let him get away with that!”
Ed chuckled, covering up his nose in mock disgust. “No, you got it wrong, Samuel. He was talking to himself. This one’s got a few screws loose, remember?”
Samuel’s face lit up with sadistic glee. “Ahh, so that’s why it’s such a great idea to pick on him, huh?”
Che’s voice was small, but he felt like a giant as the words came out of him. He stepped forward, feeling Malik and Antonio grab his arms in worry, but Che shrugged off their grip.
Samuel kicked the scrawny figure in the stomach, eliciting a loud groan of pain from the victim. Che’s eyes widened with rage, and he took another step forward.
“Oh, I got him to finally say something!” Samuel sneered. “What do you want, kid?”
Che took another look at the boy cowering on the ground, and Samuel raised his arm to hit him. Without thinking, Che leaped forward and grabbed Samuel’s arm, stopping him in his tracks.
“STOP!” Che yelled, louder this time. His eyes were blazing with fury and his hands shook as he held onto the jock’s arm. He could feel everyone around him looking on in shock, but Che kept his gaze firmly on the two bullies.
“Leave him alone!” Che growled.
Samuel’s mouth was agape, and he seemed unable to speak. Then, he started to laugh before punching Che square in the face, sending him crashing down to the floor. Within seconds, Ed and Samuel were raining down blows on Che. He tried his best to dodge them, to get up and defend himself, but the pain was too much.
He barely managed to look up to see Malik and Antonio, who were standing at the edge of the growing crowd, still as statues. Che reached out his hand, silently pleading with them to help, but the two boys nervously averted their gaze.
Ed noticed Che’s outstretched hand and laughed before stomping on it. Che yelled out in pain and heard the jeers coming from the crowd around him.
“You let us pick on you, then?” Ed spat contemptuously.
Che felt his eyes well up with tears, but he refused to give in to them. He could hear Malik and Antonio whispering something in the background, but he couldn’t make it out.
Suddenly, the punches stopped and Che heard a voice he knew all too well. “That’s enough!”
Che looked up to see Mr. Polk standing between him and the two bullies, his face severe with anger. He glared at Ed and Samuel before turning his attention towards Che, who was now struggling to get up.
“Are you alright, Johnson?” Mr. Polk asked, extending a hand to help Che stand up. He always referred to students by their last name. Che wasn’t sure if it was because of his military background or just a personal preference. “Can the two of you get up alright?”
Che nodded silently as he slowly stood up. He could feel his face swelling up from the punches and looked over at the boy, who still hadn’t moved an inch.
“Alright, everyone disperse! Show’s over!”Mr. Polk gestured for everyone to continue down the hallway. Che paused for a moment, watching the other students pass him by. Some of them looked genuinely concerned, while others snuck glances at him and quickly looked away.
No one helped the boy get up, and Che could still hear him muttering to himself, having a conversation with someone who wasn’t there. He wondered what in the world could have happened to him and felt his chest tightening up. Why would anyone be cruel enough to pick on him in the first place?
Malik and Antonio were nowhere to be seen, and Che wondered if they were now sitting in class, waiting for him to show up. How could they just leave him on the ground like that? What would they have to say for themselves? Weren’t they his friends?
Che then realized he didn’t care anymore, because in he end he’d simply been too weak.