Fighting Boys

Fighting Boys

This is a Short Story called Fighting Boys.  It is from a book of Short Stories I penned and which has the working title of “The Old Stone Bridge and Other Stories”  Enjoy

-Phil Cline

Fighting Boys


“He is just too rowdy, plays too hard, he could be violent.”


“He’s a boy,” the older woman said. “Someday he will be a man. He may need to be tough.”


“There is no more need of that.” came the reply. “If there ever was. We need to stop that in boys. Get it out of them. They hurt people. It’s what in these boys that hurts people. We need to get it out. It needs to stop.”


“But we need some boys who grow up and can fight if they need to, don’t we?” the older woman was earnest. The younger woman acted appalled.


“See? You are doing it. You are making girls inferior by glorifying fighting in boys. Its toxic. If boys didn’t fight so much, girls wouldn’t get left behind. In all the professions. They wouldn’t be put in lower positions. They’d get equal pay. We don’t need more fighters. They sell these boys those Star Wars backpacks and all they want to do is duel with their light sabers. Pretending they’re vanquishing someone with it. It never got us anywhere. Big Heroes. I think there is something wrong with us as a society when we encourage boys to fight all the time.”


“We aren’t encouraging it,” the older woman said. “Just understanding. Giving them room to grow up a little. Boys have always fought. And played at fighting. Heroes and bad guys. It’s something they do so they know who they are.”


“It’s disgusting. This one fights too much. He’s going to hurt somebody. He will pick on a girl, or a poor gay kid. I heard a bunch of boys call ‘em sissies. Boys can be cruel. Maybe then he goes after a teacher. These kind of boys are the worse. They need to be medicated. I’m going to do a notation.”


“Is that really necessary? These files follow them forever now. They can never get away from their file. They are all permanent records now. We need to be careful what we put in there. It’s going to label these kids.”


“Well, he should have thought of that.”


“He’s nine.”


“Old enough. He needs to be changed. Before it’s too late.”


The fourth grade teacher knew she couldn’t win. All the new ones were like this. And the Principle was the same. Just transferred in from the district office downtown. She’ll get her a few years at a school site before her inevitable elevation into the administration. Yes, she supported the new ones. And adopted their resentments as her own.


As she looked at her, the older teacher thought the new fourth grade teacher was probably pretty. She just never did anything to draw any attention to her physical self. She was never hesitant, however, about expressing her opinions. One knew she was there all right. Her beauty attracted little attention, but she could and would be heard loudly holding forth about all that was wrong and the few things that were right about society, education, and men. Especially men.  Just about everything wrong in her world could be traced to that hapless group and their “toxic masculinity”. And she was certainly not going to contribute to the next generation of boys having any of the characteristics she abhorred in their progenitors. Maybe like some of the periodicals said, women could eliminate them all together.


She smiled her bitter little smile, knowing she had won another small battle against the enemy. She turned without further comment away from her more senior teacher and walked authoritatively toward the administration building to file her report. Then she stopped in her tracks. Both teachers turned instinctively toward the cafeteria. They had heard something, but the mind was resisting the conclusion the sound they heard portended.


“What was that? Sounded like gun shots.” Mr. Zimmerman had come out of one of the classrooms and was looking in the same direction as the two teachers.


And almost immediately there were new sounds, this time there were sounds their minds were accustomed to. Running, screaming kids.


“Oh my God!” the older teacher said in a strangely quite tone and began walking fast then running toward the cafeteria. The new one just stood there a moment, paralyzed, still staring at the cafeteria where the sound of more gunshots, more screaming could be heard now. She tried to move then, but stumbled. Her knees felt weak. She was afraid. Had never felt this afraid of anything. She sank to the ground and couldn’t force her self to stand. She kept thinking, “I could die. I don’t want to die.”


She was aware of the din all around her. Some grown ups were running toward the cafeteria, others away from it while looking back over there shoulders or keeping their head low. Some teachers were shouting at kids, trying to corral them into their arms and move them physically toward rooms. She heard desks being turned over, doors slammed, shut down procedures were being implemented. Then there was an incredibly loud unpleasant sound overlaying the pandemonium. It was the school alarm bells going off and continuing without interruption. They added to her confusion and her panic. She just couldn’t seem to focus, to move. She pushed her hands against the ground trying to force her self up, but her body was felt too heavy to move upward. She was on her hands and knees unable to get to her feet.


The young teacher heard the main cafeteria doors open and the sound from within rose in volume with the doors standing open. More screaming. Kids, but adults too. She looked up and saw a young man step over the body of a little girl in a yellow dress, her chest all stained in red, and walk toward her. She knew this young man. He was one of her first students. He must be fourteen now. Fifteen? Her mind couldn’t do the math. How many years had she been teaching now? Four? Five? He was in her first class. That would make him how old? Had she taught Fourth or Fifth grade that year? Was it a combo Fifth/Sixth class?   Her mind was a jumble.


What she could see though, like looking through a telescope, was the gun. A long gun. For some reason she knew it was a shotgun. He was holding it down to the side with one hand, like he was carrying it somewhere. For some inexplicable reason she thought of John Wayne. But he was walking straight at her. Inexplicably she thought maybe he doesn’t see me. “I hope not. Oh God, I hope not.”


Just then something whizzed by his head and made him turn. A soccer ball. Could that have been a soccer ball? She turned to see a small boy wind up and throw something else at the intruder. A baseball? What is the doing? Now he is holding up a baseball bat like he was going to run at the teenager and hit him. The gunman had actually turned his side toward the boy because his toss of the baseball was accurate and had hit him in the shoulder.


The young man turned toward the boy and lifted the shotgun.


There was a blast and all was quiet. The young boy lay on his back. His face was missing. Then someone tackled the gunman and he was down. Mr. Zimmerman and someone else. Was that the P.E. teacher? Fat old Charlie, boring Charlie, who still pitifully lived out his glory days as a high school fullback to anyone he could corral into listening. He had tackled the shooter.


Two other men and one of the older female teachers joined in and were holding down the intruder. Police sirens were still screaming in the distance, but getting closer. She still could not get to her feet. She finally just gave up, rolled to the side and sat there.


She looked at the intruder. Pinned to the ground, Fat Charlie’s full weight holding him down, he had stopped struggling. The teenager was still staring straight at her. No emotions on his face. Just a stare. She reasoned maybe he isn’t really even seeing her. But she knew he did. He knew who she was all right. And he had been coming to get her.


She looked over and saw the older fourth grade teacher standing over the body of the young boy without a face. She was crying and shaking her head side to side. Next to the body was a Star Wars backpack.






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