Here’s the prologue to One Little Word. Enjoy!
My mother raised me right. She would say that everything good about me came from her and my less pleasant qualities were inherited from my father. It’s not that they’re divorced or that they don’t get along. She’s teasing him. They’ve been together 20 some years and they do that, tease and joke and then kiss right in front of me. It’s pretty disgusting.
But I am a good guy. And I mean more than just good to look at it. Not that I’m a slouch there. I see the way girls look at me when I walk through the halls. It could be my sandy blonde hair or the muscles and trim body I’ve developed from lifting weights and playing baseball. Maybe it’s my vibrant green eyes or just the confident way I stroll through school, like nothing and nobody can stop me.
It’s precisely that attitude that got me in trouble. It was a few minutes before school started. Me and some of my buddies from the team walked from the gym after doing our morning weight training routine. We’re sweaty and tired, not just from the exercise but at having to get up so freaking early, though a few guys shoved each other and messed around in their typical fashion.
“My grandma can bench press more than you, Ahmad,” said Joey Wilson, a great catcher whose IQ was much lower than his batting average, which was saying something since his batting average wasn’t that great. My best friend Zach Ahmad didn’t look over at Joey. I don’t even think his eyes were open.
“Got nothing to say to that, Ahmad?” smirked Ted Summers, our team’s back up third baseman.
“If you expect a response from me before 9:00 a.m.” he started haughtily, “come up with something worth the effort of replying to.” He leaned into my shoulder and let me guide him down the halls. Lazy asshole.
“You didn’t have to come work out,” Ted pointed out.
Zach swung his arm around my back, clapping me on the shoulder. “The captain here said I should show initiative.” The last words dripped with disdain.
“I will drop you,” I warned.
He opened one eyelid to peer at me. His tired blue-grey eye projected a surprising amount of menace. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“How did you make captain anyway?” Joey asked me, switching targets. “My little sister can bench press more than you.”
I scoffed at the catcher. “One, you don’t have a little sister.”
“Okay, your little sister can bench press more than you,” he corrected.
I carried on like he hadn’t spoken. “Two, that was basically the same insult.”
“Whatever, you queens.” Joey gestured to Zach and me limping down the halls together. “Going to take each other to prom?”
“How would they decide who gets the fancy crown?” Ted snickered.
I considered thanking Ted because if we got a crown that meant we won something, but I directed a question to the leech on my shoulder instead. “You got anything to say to this?”
He lifted a finger in Ted’s general direction. “Blah-blah, you’re a girl.” Then he pointed towards Joey. “You’re gay, blah-blah-blah.” Zach positioned himself more firmly on my shoulder. “You make a surprisingly comfortable pillow,” he told me. “Why don’t I sleep on you in Spanish class?”
“You’re a vain bastard who’d never do this in front of anyone else?” I guessed. The guys watched, thinking that might get a response. Zach opened his mouth, then shrugged and closed it, conceding the point.
“You’re so gay,” Joey said, laughing at us.
“Better than being a retard,” I responded instantly.
Remember, my mom raised me right. I don’t swear in front of my grandparents or act rude to ladies and I take my cap off for the national anthem. But in front of the guys, it’s different. I may be the most popular guy in my grade but part of that is because I fit in. Juvenile, off-color remarks are the only things Joey and a lot of the other guys understand. I guess I could not say anything, but okay, maybe I’m a macho idiot jock who can’t be the bigger person because I just can’t let the comments slide.
“At least I’m not a pussy,” Joey said. Zach snorted on my shoulder because the catcher basically conceded to being a retard. I mean, mentally challenged.
I responded back as I’m expected to, not even thinking about it, trying to remember if we had any homework in algebra that I forgot to do. “Whatever, you fag,” I said. No points for originality, but I flipped him off too for good measure. He huffed and rolled his eyes, opening his mouth to respond, probably with something witty and original along the lines of I know you are, but what am I.
Except then I heard a sharp intake of breath and a stern voice behind me. “Mr. Chambers. Head to the principal’s office.”