Timothy Bacher was done with using tissues to clear his running nose. Besides, the tissue was all used and soggy. He had just run out of Kleenex facial tissues.
He sat there in the middle row of the sixth-grade class aware of the impending disaster about to crawl down his upper lip like a snake from his left nostril. He could pull the snot back and make that heavy sniffing noise and risk being put on break punishment or he could lick the damn thing and pray the bell would ring for break time. He needed to finish writing the answers.
A quick look around the class made him panic. Even Isabel, the slow snail, was sniggering and looking around, eager to go out and play. Now Tim had a real big problem. He had a snotty nose with no tissue and unwritten class work to hand in when this lesson finished. He could lick his snot, quickly plug both nostrils shut, pinning them with his left hand’s thumb and forefinger and at the same time, look down and write the damn answer. And pray not a drop falls and spoils his clean book. A drop meant punishment by his teacher, Mrs. Patches Getty.
He licked the snaking snot now swelling on his upper lip before it did the disastrous thing of falling on his exercise book. Mary Jean was watching him. Their eyes met as he licked the snot off and ducked his head to begin the recited task.
Mary Jane made the ‘Yucky’ sound and whispered loud enough so that all eyes turned to look at Tim. Tim tried to concentrate and ignore the whispers as he wrote fast. It didn’t work. Before he could get a sentence written, Brian, the bully, reached over and snatched Tim’s left hand away, sniggering in the process.
Tim watched in horror as the drop fell and swelled on his opened page. “Oh no!” he said and heard Mary Jane suppress a satisfied giggle. Tim looked up. Mary Jane had turned away and all he could see was her back and her golden hair. Tim reached out for the unfinished gum beneath his desk’s top where he had hidden it earlier on when class commenced. He chewed it for a while, to soften it and rolled it into a ball. Then he took his plastic rule and placed the gum at the tip, careful, it wouldn’t stick to the rule.
He aimed it at Mary Jane, pulled back the tip of the rule so it arched. He let go, firing the catapult. The gum sailed across and landed smack on Mary Jane’s head lodging itself in her hair. Mary Jane reached out, felt the sticky gum and frantically tried to pull it off. The gum stuck to her golden locks, some of it coming off, only to stick to her fingers like ribbons.
Mary Jane turned her angry face to give Tim one warning look. She turned back to face the front. Mary Jane unleashed the most ear-piercing scream ever heard in Mrs. Getty’s classroom. The scream, as it soon became known as, sent the other kids rushing to block their ears and had Mrs. Getty come rushing into the class worried some unforeseen disaster had fallen on her otherwise well-behaved class.
It didn’t take long for Mrs. Getty to pinpoint the culprit.
“You again, Timothy Bacher! Oh, you really do test my patience. Come. Let’s go and see what Principal Woods makes of this.”
Mrs. Getty did what Tim feared most. She took one look at his book and made the incriminating discovery that not only had he not finished his class exercise, but he had stained the page as well. Mrs. Getty went into full throttle. She was livid. She licked her widow’s lips, adjusted her thick glasses and set her brown eyes on the young Timothy Bacher. “First, you disrupt my class, then, not only do you not finish your class exercise, but you dare stain your exercise book. Young man, you are in a lot of trouble.”
Tim looked up into the sixty-one-year-old face and wondered how he could ever win her trust and make her stop blaming him for everything that happened to go wrong in her class. He rose to follow her out of the classroom to the head’s office.
Tim lay awake in his batmobile bed. Much as he tried, he couldn’t sleep. He listened to the raised voices of his parents. He felt lonely and abandoned.
Early, the next morning, Tim packed two pairs of his best jeans and T-shirts into his school satchel. He took a sweeping look of his room, like a swift goodbye. Tonight he would be miles away from home. Yeah, this home wasn’t home anymore with his parents always yelling at each other.
As he cycled to school on his blue Scott Voltage bicycle, Tim kept asking himself where he would go. He hadn’t thought it out well. It wouldn’t be easy to leave his entire world, just like that. If things didn’t look good, he would go back. He made this bold decision as he cycled to school. He had spied on his parents by listening to their heated exchange in their bedroom using a tall glass. He placed the glass flat against the wall, with the rim smack against the wall, and his ear glued to the bottom of the glass.
He could hear their voices, amplified. He could hear their verbal fight and feel the hurt. This time it was worse. Mom kept saying “Why are you doing this to me, Avery? Why? I love you so much. I gave you two beautiful children, but no! You want her! That skinny good for nothing slut! Why are you hurting me so much? I don’t deserve this…”
“You are always nagging me! Nag, nag, nag! I’m done with you, Talcy. Best you give me a divorce. There is no more us to speak of. Do you hear me? I’m done with you and -.”
“All this because of a silly affair with that bitch?”
“Leave Tilly out of this. She is not a whore. For your own information, she is a fully qualified stenographer. She’s only temping as a receptionist…”
“Avery, don’t leave me… Please, I’m begging you. Please…” he could still hear his mother sobbing and pleading desperately. He could picture her, begging his father. Tim had not slept well the night before. He had woken up several times from nightmares where his mother was on her knees, crying as a fast bullet train sped off with his father and his new love, the thin sliced Miss Tilly Sink, with her curly locks, free natured smile, and that loud laugh. What did dad see in her?
Tim spent the morning in class in a daze. He quietly sat behind his desk and absorbed nothing of what the teacher was saying, nor did he once provoke Mary Jane. Mrs. Getty concluded the warning Tim received from the school head had done the trick. It was a pleasant morning in Mrs. Getty’s class that day. Outside the sun shone so lovingly, as though it liked what it saw. And Mrs. Getty smiled with the warmth of the sun in her bones.
Tim felt the hurt, afraid of a home without a father like Tom Backshore. Tom always talked about how his father woke up one morning, dressed to go to work and never came back. Next thing they heard he was living with his secretary in one of the condos in Miami South Beach. Dad was going to do the same. Leave us all to go and live with that woman?
Tom Backshore used to be Tim’s best friend. That was until Tom befriended big fat, Oliver. Tim didn’t like Oliver. Too much fat made the boy unpleasant to look at. Besides, Oliver loved killing anything from lizards to iguanas. Tim believed Oliver was spoilt. Always eating and boasting about his impressive arsenal of toys at home. He would watch Oliver walk by, his button eyes sunk into the cushion folds of his chubby face and wonder why Tom had decided to befriend him. Now, Tim had no real friend to speak of.
When Tim spotted Miss Tilly Sink at break time, his heart sank. He turned away and disappeared down the corridor before she could spot him. Gone were those feelings which used to stir him into bubbling life. Tim didn’t like her anymore.
His dislike for her came as unexpectedly as all dislikes for things good always do. After he found out she was the woman responsible for his mother’s miserable state, Tim felt a rage building up in him. It was the same rage he felt when he saw his dad and wanted to scream, ‘How could you do this?’
How could Miss Tilly Sink be so nasty as to bring so much misery to his mom?
She could have easily chosen somebody else to have her fling with. Better someone like the basketball coach who was her age and didn’t seem to get enough of her. He would always hang around the office, at the reception area trying to fit in, as if he had important business there. The boys all knew that the coach fancied Miss Tilly Sink, but Tim would never have guessed she was his dad’s side squeeze. Worse, he couldn’t even imagine the two kissing. He now wondered what she saw in his dad that she didn’t see in the coach.
Tim and his friends all said the coach was cool, him being so tall and full of muscles and a six-pack he often showed off at the school’s Olympic-size swimming pool. Tim and his friend would always admire the coach as he walked up to the highest diving board and dive a double somersault with a perfect dip into the pool without a splash. They all wished they could be just like the coach.
Now, dad wasn’t even cool like the coach. Dad didn’t even have muscles to speak of. Fine, he was a charming man according to Mrs. Getty, but not cool. Nah. Tim always felt ashamed that his dad couldn’t even play basketball. Dad was into baseball. Old fashioned. Yeah, his dad preferred to laze around chatting to old women and cheering the Bradley Community Middle School basketball team. That was his dad, a seasoned and dedicated supporter and cheerleader!
The day moved on like it always does, with Tim lost in a dream of how he was going to execute his plan to run away from home. When the bell rang to signal the end of class, Tim rushed out with everyone else and escaped into the maze of school corridors which took him out into the playing field, on his bicycle, to feverishly peddle on, into the swamp, trying hard to put distance between him and the world he now hated so much.