The Boy in the Bin

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Friday started out like any ordinary school day, except for the weather being dreary and overcast outside. Cal picked up Raphael at the appointed time and headed towards the school.

“sho nuff look lock rain,” Cal mused as they traveled. “Them clouds is real dock.”

“I don’t like rain,” Raphael answered, “and the lightning nscares me.”

“Ah likes rain when ah goes fishin,” Cal put in, “cus the rain makes the fish jump in the boat.”

“My daddy never ntook nme nfishing,” Raphael remarked. “He says nthat someday we might go, but he is always working.”

“Anatime you wants to go fishin wit me,” Cal tempted, “you jus ask yo mama and ah take you. We catch us a mess o bluefish. Thems is fightin fish.”

Even though the traffic moved slowly, Cal made his way to school on time. By 9:00 o’clock, everyone sat in their respective classes. This was Math day for Raphael, but the only math he could deal with was watching the clock.

In the morning, Sammy would sneak into the girl’s bathroom with the Pineapple wrapped up in a wadded piece of paper. After noon, the janitor would empty the waste basket into the shoot leading to the furnace. And sometime shortly afterward, a loud explosion in the basement of the school would erupt.

Lunchtime came and all the students corralled into the cafeteria. Being Friday, the special lunch turned out to be fish. However, the description of the meal won no award for accuracy. In reality, the toasted fish-like substance on a hamburger bun reminded Raphael of how crap would taste. To top everything all off, a generous helping of canned peas went with the wannabe fish. Yuck.

Raphael, Johnny, Sammy and Mitch all sat together at the same table. Two classmates wanted to sit down with them, but Mitch gave them the evil eye.

“Did you get the Pineapple set?” Mitch questioned Sammy.

“Yes,” he nodded, “I got it done. But Miss Gordon tagged me coming out of the girl’s john and bitched at me.”

“You dummy,” Mitch barked, “I told you not to get caught.”

“I didn’t get caught,” Sammy argued, “and quit calling me a dummy. I pretended like I got confused and went into the bathroom instead of coming out.”

“Where did you put the Pineapple?” Johnny asked.

“I wadded everything up in a roll of scrap paper,” Sammy continued, “and put the bundle in the bottom of a trash can.”

“Man,” Johnny giggled, “this is going to be cool. I hope the son of a bitch goes off while we are still here in school.”

“Nwill the furnace nlight the fuse?” Raphael wondered.

“What do you think, Ratface,” Sammy sneered.

“Hey,” Mitch said, “knock the shit off. I don’t care if you are older than me. No mocking our friend Raphael.”

Raphael appeared to be happy Mitch took up his defense. He liked Johnny, and he also liked Mitch, but he thought Sammy reminded him of a jerk. Besides being big for his age, he acted like a bully. Both Sammy and Mitch liked to use bad words too; words Raphael’s parents didn’t around his house. Perhaps using bad words went along with being older.

Abruptly, the sound of a loud crack came, accompanied by a flash of light outside the window. All four boys glared at each other as if the same identical thought crossed their minds.

“Did you hear that crash?” Johnny asked. “Sounded like an explosion.”

“No, not even close,” Mitch corrected, “that’s the sound of lightning. A storm is brewing outside.”

They all got up and ran to the window, along with several other students. Rain poured outside and puddles of water formed on the ground as they viewed the sky. Several people near the school ran madly, covering their heads with briefcases, purses, newspapers or anything else usable, to shield them from the downpour.

“I’m glad I’m not out in the storm,” Johnny muttered. “Now I hope they don’t let us out early.”

Mitch jabbed Johnny with his elbow and whispered to him to shut up. His head moved to the left and the right and Johnny realized other students might listen to their conversation. They sat and studied the rain coming down in a steady burst. Miss Gordon came into the cafeteria and announced the end of lunch time and classes would start momentarily.

The same schedule existed every day for classes, with Raphael in Science class, Mitch and Sammy in Reading and Johnny in Math. Raphael didn’t mind Science because some topics interested him. Even Math got interesting sometimes, but he didn’t care too much for Reading, Vowels, and Consonants. These subjects bored his active mind.

Today would be a special day because something cool would happen. Even though he tried to pay attention to his teacher, his mind wandered elsewhere. Every minute , he glanced at the clock on the wall. At shortly after 1:00 P.M., his waiting ended.

BOOM! ... The sound of distant thunder rang out as the lights in the classroom dimmed.

For a moment, he thought another lightning strike hit, but at that instant, the fire alarm bell clanged away with its urgent voice. To his surprise, Mrs. Jordan, his teacher, instructed the class to stand up and make a single file leading outside of the classroom. With everyone in line like tin soldiers, she led the class out of the room, down the hallway and into the pouring rain. This turned out to be a development he didn’t expect.

Outside the school entrance, his class joined members of the other classes, led by the respective teachers. Despite the complaints in evidence from the students, the teachers drove on; undaunted in their quest to take everyone safely away from the building. On the basement floor, flames came out of a broken window and Raphael became aware immediately of Sammy’s handiwork.

By the time the crowd got to the shelter of the next building, everybody resembled drowned rats; being thoroughly soaked to the bone. A few kids who wore eyeglasses appeared as aliens because their glasses steamed up in the humid air.

In the distance, Raphael listened to the wail of fire trucks and realized this situation became more serious than he first thought. Sammy came up to him and held his index finger to his lips. He displayed a wild twinkle in his eyes and he signaled for Raphael to keep his mouth shut.

“Attention everybody,” Mrs. Jordan announced. “We are experiencing a small problem with the school. Lightning hit and started a fire. We’ve arranged for buses to come and pick everyone up to take you home today. I apologize, but we can provide no towels for you to dry yourself. So I’m sorry, but you will be uncomfortable for a while until you get home. Don’t worry about your books and things because they will stay in your lockers until Monday.”

Mitch came running up like someone scoring the final run in a baseball game. Sammy once again signaled the quiet sign, and Mitch nodded. Raphael sensed both Mitch and Sammy were bubbling with excitement. The fourth pea in the pod, Johnny, didn’t show up. No one caught sight of him in any of the lines waiting to board the buses.

“Where’s Johnny?” Raphael pondered.

“He’s still in the school,” Mitch recalled. “Miss Ashe mentioned Johnny’s stomach hurt right after lunch. He went down to the nurse’s office and she kept him hanging out while everything happened.”

“He probably got a bad piece of fish,” Sammy said. “Who cares ... he’s a wimp anyway.”

Raphael thought about hitting Sammy in the balls like he once did to a man who tried to steal his hat. He liked no one talking about his cousin that way. Sammy towered over him though and his mother warned him about the sensitivity of a man’s pelvic area. Besides, with his bus almost loaded, he didn’t want to miss a chance to get a free ride home. He couldn’t wait to get out of these wet clothes.

And what a tale he would have for his parents tonight.

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