Chapter 10

I’m still dazed by the punch. I manage to maneuver out the side exit and make my way through the rear entrance of the school. I stop at a pay phone by the gas station and call Steve to tell him I’m okay and to take care of Tim. I am not calling anybody else. I just want to get home and take care of my broken face. I can feel my chipped teeth, the two front ones. They are jagged as I run my tongue over them. My face is throbbing. The guy who threw that punch probably didn’t know he got me good and I just wanted to break up the fight. Didn’t he understand he clocked me when I wasn’t looking? A cheap shot, a real cheap shot - bastard.

           I get home, and my parents are already in bed; which is good for me at this point. If they see me, they will have a cow and then grill me for details. My mom will most definitely chew me out for starting a fight. I am not sure how my dad will react. He might be really pissed and then ignore me for a week. I’ll tell him I broke up a fight and tried to help my friend out (which is true) to avoid his disappointment.

In the mirror, it doesn’t look too bad. My teeth are chipped, but at least it is just the ends that got knocked out. I guess I will be visiting my dentist soon. It looks like the impact was right on my upper cheek bone. There is a cut with a small amount of blood, along with a red bump that is growing in size.

            I grab a bag of frozen corn from the refrigerator. I apply it to my swollen face as I sit on the toilet. I feel like Rocky Balboa after a round with Apollo Creed. I grab my brother’s phone to call Steve first to get the scoop. Steve got Tim away from the dance, then walked to the 7-11 to get a Slurpee and played video games. They acted like it was no big deal. I wanted details; but I’m asking the wrong guys. I took a shot in the mug for Tim, the least he could do is be a bit concerned.

           Steve murmured to me that he will ‘feel me out’ tomorrow, and that he had it under control. I have no idea what the hell that means. Tim acted weird like he was on drugs last night - maybe he was.

            I wake up the next morning and feel my face. It’s really swollen and puffy. When I touch it, it hurts like a mother. I have a nearly closed purplish black eye and a bulging cheekbone. I’m screwed, but I don’t care what my parents think; all I’m concerned about is going to school. I will be the guy who got his ass kicked. Life sucks. How long will I have this thing on my face? Will it be gone by Monday? Doubtfully.

            I go downstairs. There is my mom and sister sitting at the table. My mom sees me and blurts out, “Fergus, what in the world?” Then she goes nuts.

            “Ma, I accidently got hit in the face.”

“What do you mean accidently hit in the face? Are you okay? Let me see that eye.”

            “I’m okay, just a shiner. But my teeth are little chipped.”

            Now my mom is now really freaking out. My dad hasn’t got out of bed yet, and there is no way he or my sister is going to believe the accident story.

            “Who did you get in a fight with?” my mother asks. 

            “I’m a lover, not a fighter,” I declare in a cheeky manner.

Deep down I think I’m neither. As a fighter, I haven’t thrown one good punch. And as a lover I’m an amateur at best. But I’ve got potential to be good at both.

After letting my mom go berserk and my sister treating me like I was a dumb punk. I know she is disappointed because she spent the time to teach me dance moves. I just want to go back to bed. My parents have never seen me get into this type of trouble before. The crap I did last year never involved black eyes and a trip to the dentist. I have been in school three weeks and been in two fights. I will never last the school year at this rate. But both times I helped out a friend in need and took a beating; there should be some kind of good deed award for that.

           When my dad walks into my room, I tell him I broke up a fight and got hit when I wasn’t looking. He calls it getting sucker-punched. My dad isn’t mad at me as much as he is at Tim’s lack of defending himself. I have to assure him that Tim was having fun and probably stepped on someone’s toes, stupid stuff that didn’t merit a fight. Anyway, I have to go to the regular doctor too because my parents want to see if my eye is okay. Maybe the doctor can actually speed up the healing. I feel more embarrassed than anything.

 I get a quiet moment to call Steve on the house phone. When I talk to Steve I get the underwhelming news of the fight. Steve tells me that Tim took some of his mom’s Xanax pills and it got mixed with the beer. When they kicked in, he started feeling weird. I tell Steve that I am going to beat his ass if he ever pulls that shit again. The real shocker is who did what to whom. Tim crashed into some guy named Luke Newberry, a junior who didn’t like Tim’s over energized ways. The next thing you know the two were fighting. I came over to stop it and some guy that neither of us knew hit me from my left side. When I staggered from the punch, a group of football players pulled everybody away. Manny Gomes grabbed the kid that hit me. He yanked him so hard he fell to the ground. Manny put him in a headlock and took him outside. All of it was over in less than two minutes even though it seemed like longer. Why the hell Gomes was there is weird. I guess football players are now the official goon squad on campus.

It’s now Tuesday morning, time to move on. I got Monday off to tend to my broken face. My dad tells me that I don’t have to go to school. I can’t believe my dad’s giving me a free pass on school. He’s pissed but it seems that he also feels sorry that I have to show my mug around the whole school. I tell him not to worry; there will be no fighting today. I also tell him I’m not wearing any eye patch. He isn’t going to stop me, but he does want to talk to the principal. He is pissed about this kid who punched me and how the whole thing happened. I tell him that will be more embarrassing than a black eye. I just want this whole thing to go away as fast as possible. 

I walk to school like always. I put on sunglasses, not because I want to look cool, it’s actually the doctor's orders. I don’t wear sunglasses, but my doctor gave me these extra-large dark one’s that look like goggles. I walk to school with Steve, which is different because he is a bicycle rider. He probably feels sorry for me, but I don’t want any of that. The last thing I want is to be constantly singled out while people make a big deal about my shiner. It’s different if you have a new cast on your arm (or leg), but when your face changes so does your life. I just hope it doesn’t last.

            I go to my first period class, and sure enough I’m like a magnet for all the busybodies. Most of the kids are probably mortified by my face, kind of like the ‘Elephant Man'. Steve tells me to act like a bad ass and wear it like a badge of honor; someone you better not screw with. I don’t feel that way.

So here I sit in art class, thinking about my self-portrait. I pull it out and start drawing in my black eye to preserve this moment. Patty walks up from behind me.  “That’s quite an addition to your portrait.”

I spin around, and she gasps. “Fergus, what happened?”

             “What do you think? It’s fairly accurate I believe,” I say as I motion to the picture. I was wondering what her reaction would be. It appears to be sympathy. I have to admit, I like the attention no matter what it is. I’m like a wounded puppy dog in her presence. Maybe Steve did have a point; I could use this to my advantage.

            “Ah well, as they say in science, every action has a reaction; and this is what happens when someone hits you in the face,” I state proudly.

            “Are you some kind of martial art fighter, or what?”

How sweet of her to think that. “No, I just tried to stop a fight. But someone else had a different idea.”

            “That’s a total bummer. It’s quite the injury you’ve got. Did you get it checked out?”

“I am okay, but the doctor wants me to wear these glasses. I dunno… they look, well … Eh, something like a blind guy would wear,” I say as I show her my glasses.

            “I think you just go without glasses and let everybody see you with that big black eye. You can peer at everybody and freak them out.”

            “Does it freak you out?”

“I’m just worried about why a normal guy like you walks around with a black eye” she states as she goes to check on the other kids drawings.

At this point, I really don’t know how to get her to think I’m a hero. Maybe I shouldn’t have whipped out these ugly ass glasses. I look down at my work and feel like a dope for letting her see me like this. Am I normal in her eyes?  Maybe she is not so unattainable. I have something to build on now. Good or bad; at least it’s something. We are pretty much friends now, I think. By Ferguson’s standards we are practically dating. Maybe this black-eye thing can work to my advantage. Maybe it makes me look brave and heroic in her eyes.

            The day kind of goes downhill after art class. I have to answer around nine-hundred questions about what happened to me. Some kids believe my story, while others think I got my ass handed to me. The rumor mill is churning as to what really happened. Fact is being blended with fiction. I’m just glad no one caught it on their camera phone; and a little surprised too. I’m under the impression that not too many kids at this high school have ever got punched in the face. It happened so fast that very few saw me actually get hit. I bet Manny Gomes knows that it was me. It sure is weird he was involved in breaking up the fight. I figured he would be the one who started it in the first place.

            I get an excuse to not suit up for PE, so I hang around the teacher. He makes me carry the clip board and write down times for guys running a 440 - once around the track. Most of the guys take forever - like it is a big deal. I used to be one of those dopes. I can now blow past all of these chumps; and I’m never looking back.