Adam sat in a sterile, vacant limbo, the walls unsettlingly white and empty. The loneliness and despair of the place peeled sound from the air, leaving only the ringing in his ears, a field of crickets chirping accusations, reminding him of Tommy Keeler's bloody fate. Adam saw his tiny fists charging into the air, cutting molecules to bits as they flew toward their target and freezing for a moment, contemplating the late Keeler's face, searching for a reason to blast it, explode it into a juicy red mushroom cloud. What if he could have talked his hands out of it, stepped away from the fight, walked away peacefully with the talking dog, the world a motionless picture behind them? He and his new friend would escape, exploring, looking for a new photo to step into, a new world without bullies or anger or deadly fists. Fate dangled magical possibilities in front of him, but only offered him the cold reality of punishment.
Chris Leavens: May 2005 Archives
The filthy gang of boys led by Tommy Keeler rumbled down the hillside toward Adam, their yelping mouths smiling wickedly underneath dull, close-set eyes. Adam watched them descend, a sweaty, heedless avalanche of hooligans, and the shock of impending humiliation and pain turned the frail boy to stone. He stood still, a statue waiting to be desecrated, the talking dog cowering behind him.
The slope gave way to flat land and Tommy Keeler slowed to cocky walk, the other boys following him in a 'V' formation, lending him their mobbish energy. "This is a dumb place, to hide, A-dumb." Keeler's cohorts praised his vapid wit with their chuckles. "That's yer new name, A-dumb. Like 'd-u-m' dumb."
The talking dog couldn't resist. "Learn to spell, moron," he barked from behind Adam's legs. The talking dog regretted it immediately.
It's not necessary, but it might help if you read part 1.
Sick with children, the colossal red-brick building sneezed and the entire fourth grade shot out of its doors. 122 ten-year olds exploded onto the green hillside, kicking dust and mud onto the beastly edifice. They were like a happy load of buckshot, a swarm of jubilant disorder, all of them running, tripping, jumping for freedom. All of them except for one; a really little, skinny one called Adam. This one shuffled from the building, his frail, brainy body moving in slow motion while the other children blurred past. He stared at the grass as shoe-drawn currents ripped through it, fatefully tearing and snapping select blades, leaving others to stand the test of life for at least a few more moments.
Adam shrank into the grass, got small like the ants and climbed aboard a prime leaf, the perfect launchpad. He waited and watched, ready to surf the next hapless wave that followed in the wake of his new classmates.
"Heads up! Heads up! Heads up, uh, Adam? Heads up ADAM?" He looked up, but it was too late. Whack! A kickball to the side of the face and Adam dropped to the ground. Tommy Keeler, a miniature lumberjack with hair the color of vacuum-cleaner dust, ran over and grabbed the ball. Adam held his burning right cheek and hid his pain, keeping Tommy Keeler in his periphery, afraid to look him in the eye. Third-grade legend taught Adam that to look Tommy Keeler in the eyes in a time of weakness meant certain death, or at least a wedgie.
Genius. Genius occupied every sentence, no every word in those letters, but now those letters were gone, torn to shreds, sitting in front of Adam in a box. Adam cried for days after he opened that package. Michelle wanted no more of Adam’s company nor did she want the company of his letters, the letters he wrote, the letters soaked in genius. She wanted to spend more time with Pierre, her new man, that guy who took her salsa dancing. Adam would have gone salsa dancing. Why didn’t she ask him? Why did she push him away as if every physical advance was an illegal assault? After all, he could reconsider; the "give-me-some-room-let’s-be-friends-for-a-while" thing might work.
Adam asked his talking dog to explain it, but the talking dog could not explain it. The talking dog just paced around the couch waxing poetic about the pants he had just bought.