Benson's World, страница 1
The school bus bumped along under the autumn leaves with a near full complement of kids; three to a seat, no standees. The only exception was at the back where the seat held just Benson and Kirby. Benson adjusted his grip on the smaller boy’s shirt and slammed him back against the cold metal wall of the bus. The boy’s collar bone felt fragile under his fist.
“How ya doin today, Kirb?” Benson asked. “Long time no see.” Kirby Tyler was sweating already. He scrabbled at the bigger boy’s arm with no effect. It was a lie, of course. They had seen each other frequently since the beginning of the school year, a string broken (mercifully, from Kirby’s point of view) by weekends and holidays.
“You miss me?” Benson asked.
“No,” said Kirby through tight lips, his face pale. Kirby brought his legs up on the vinyl seat and pistoned them in an attempt to shove Benson back but Benson brushed them aside, easily, violently with his free hand.
“That’s kinda rude, don’t you think, Kirb? Getting your dirty feet all over a friend’s pants?”
“You’re not my friend.”
“That hurts, you know. Bad words hurt my feelings. When you hurt my feelings, I have to hurt you back. It’s only fair, right? It’s called justice.” He balled his fist and punched it into Kirby’s stomach. Kirby let out a gasp and brought his knees up toward his chest in agony. “Maybe that will teach you to care more about other people.”
“Leave him alone!” A girl glared at Benson from the seat in front of them; scrawny, younger, her eyes huge behind thick lenses.
“Mind your own business, blotch face.”
The girl had a birthmark across her cheek and nose.
“I’ll tell the bus driver!” she squeaked.
Benson mocked her in a falsetto voice, “I’ll tell the bus driver!”
“And you’ll get in trouble!” the girl said, undeterred.
“Oh gosh, that would be awful,” Benson said, never easing his grip on the smaller boy’s shirt.
“He doesn’t care, Edi,” Kirby croaked through the pressure on his chest.
“That’s not true, I care about the two of you. I care a lot. You like each other, don’t you? I can tell. Do you smooch her, Kirb? Do you smooch that blotch?” He made kissing sounds in Kirby’s face. “Hey –,” he said, “maybe someday you’ll get married and have little blotch faced babies! Waaa. Waaaaaaaaaaa. I’m an ugly baby and my mom is too!” His eyes brightened with a thought. “I’ll bet it runs in the family, doesn’t it – that blotch thing? Someone else in the family has it too, don’t they? Your Mom? Your Granddad?”
The girl burned her gaze into Benson for another moment. “You’re a bad person,” she said.
“I knew it! The blotch family!”
The girl turned toward the front of the bus. “Mister Tan,” she called, “Benson is beating up Kirby. Mister Tan?”
Her voice was small, like her body and it was lost in the hubbub of the bus. A few of the kids glanced at her, then went back to what they were doing.
“You shouldn’t distract the driver,” Benson said. “You’ll get us killed.” He turned back to Kirby whose shirt was still twisted in his fist. Kirby’s notebook had regurgitated papers onto the seat somewhere in the struggle and Benson snatched one up.
“What do we have here? A one hundred!” Benson said, looking it over. “A perfect score on your vocab test!” He whistled. “And a gold star! Aren’t you a smarty pants. Your forgot to give this to your mom to put on the fridge, didn’t you? That’s what you’re hoping for, isn’t it; that she’ll put it up there? Admit it, that’s what you want - that she’ll stick it up with one of those little magnets - like the bananas or the grapes?”
“She helped me study,” Kirby said.
“That’s so sweet.” Benson gritted his teeth and pulled Kirby forward just enough to slam him back against the metal wall again. Kirby’s head thumped off the surface, his hands grappling helplessly to free himself.
“I hate smartass kids,” Benson spat. “You people piss me off. Everything about you pisses me off, Kirb – the way you look, the way you talk, even the way you walk. It just pisses – me – off.” He slammed Kirby against the wall with each phrase.
The girl was standing now, waving both arms and shouting as she walked up the aisle.
The bus shifted gears. The engine growled as it pushed up a hill. The girl stumbled a bit. Benson held the paper and gave a smile now. “Why don’t I give you my own gold star, huh?” He slid the quiz paper down the back of his pants with his free hand and rubbed, his eyes turning to slits. “Oh, yeah – I think - yeah . . .” He grunted, then farted. “Awesome!” he laughed. “That’s a gold star for sure. I didn’t think I had one in the chute but I did. Wasn’t that awesome Kirb?”
He crunched the paper into a ball and stuffed it in Kirby’s face. The girl was half way up the aisle, sure to get the driver’s attention but the bus came to halt, its breaks squealing. They were in front of the school. She jerked forward, then nearly fell back. Kids sprang up grabbing books and backpacks, enveloping the girl in a sea of chaos.
“Looks like the fun is over,” Benson said, letting Kirby go. “Don’t forget though; this is the first day of the rest of your life.” It was a line he used often. He cocked a pistol finger at Kirby and winked.
Benson pushed his way off the bus shouting, “Move it, move, runts. I could squash you. I should squash you.”
Outside on the asphalt, kids flowed around him, mostly smaller. There were a few as big as Benson but they ignored him. He surveyed the scene from the center of his universe and noticed something worth his time. There was a kid he had never seen before, funny looking; short and skinny with a strangely flattened head. His shirt was tight on his bony frame making him look even thinner.
Benson sauntered over.
“Hey hamburger-head. Where’d you come from? Your mother’s ass?”
The kid looked up and offered a reaction that Benson wasn’t used to. He smiled.
“Benson Beutweiler,” he said, “you’re here!”
Benson was taken off guard. His mouth moved for a moment before he retook command.
“Damn right I’m here. Where the heck else would I be?”
“This is a good day. You are an important person,” the kid said, still smiling.
Benson had to regroup again. The bell rang and kids began moving into the school building en-mass.
“Yeah,” he finally came out with. “It’s about time someone realized that.” He reached out a hand to grab the kid’s nose thinking he might jerk him around with it but his hand suddenly became very tired. He lowered it back down.
“Benson,” a voice called. It was Mrs. Trillo. “Stop horsing around and get inside.”
“Yes, Mrs. Trillo,” Benson replied in a saccharine voice. He looked back toward the kid thinking he might give him a quick punch in the forehead before heading inside, the teacher might not catch it from this angle, but the kid was gone. He looked around, confused.
“Benson,” shouted Mrs. Trillo, “inside now.”
“Yes Mrs. Trillo.” He looked again but the kid had disappeared.