catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 22 :: 2004.12.31 — 2005.01.13


The Punch

*The punch. Just one, coming so fast and unexpected that it seemed all the air he had breathed that day, and indeed would breathe for a few minutes at least, came rushing at once out of his mouth, wide with surprise (and of course a little to do with the pain), leaving him feeling as if not just his lungs had collapsed but his entire upper torso as it sagged over on to his short, skinny legs. The sounds, the gym, the students, the teacher, the spiraling down to the nurse?s, the principal?s office. The punch. With the weight of a ten-year-old fury behind it. As the diamond, the faces, the cot spiraled together. And so unexpected….

(Beau had the double advantage of being his cousin and classmate, and so the friendship had been ordained from the start. Even their relation was a double one, on both their fathers? and mothers? sides. And so they had started sharing their interests and creating new ones to tailor fit their double friendship. And, though his parents often felt uneasy about the union, he had claimed Beau as his friend and added the ?best? later, though not much. Of course, all this was before high school….)

He watched as Beau approached the lunch table. He would turn on the smile, reference their adventures in elementary school, perhaps the hay mow or, God forbid, that baseball incident again, and then return to the cheerleaders across the cafeteria who put up with Beau the same way he did.

*It was nearing the end of English, and he knew gym would be next. He dreaded it, though he didn?t quite put that word to it yet. Certainly he did not anticipate it with the same zeal as his other classmates. Now Library, Art, Music, these other choices pleased him more, but it was Thursday, and so his fate would be less innocent.

(Not that he had been blind to his parents? concerns. The one-sided group projects. The lying. The occasional theft. But he knew no other way to be a friend then with complete, forgiving trust. Even if you could trust your distrust over everything. While they worried about Beau?s influence on their son [?You must remember that hay mow injury. Do you think he would have done such a thing on his own? Do you really?] he had chosen to believe in his influence on his double cousin. It was a two-sided contact, after all. And he liked him….)

It had started right on schedule. Not that it overly bothered him. ?Remember in gym when I wanted to play first base, and you had gotten there first?? Not that he wasn?t used to Beau?s social flirtations. ?No,? he thought ,?I?ve completely forgotten that, I?m sure.? Not that he had ever expected more. Beau was on his way back now, but hesitatingly. Or had he?

*Class had ended, and the students filed into a straight line and followed Mr. Brown down the hall to the gym.

(Beau, as it turned out, would be forced to admit his fault to the class, who took his phrase ?where it hurts? with a double meaning not intended. Not that it stopped Beau from capitalizing on it….)

He had lain on the couch all evening. His mother phoned Beau?s, though he told her it was unnecessary. He didn?t mind. And he would still sit next to Beau on the bus the next day. Yes, he remembered thinking that. And now Beau, who could not forgive him his hideous crime, took his seat on the other side of the cafeteria.

*As they entered the gym, he saw the makeshift diamond set up on one side. He groaned to himself, almost with pain. Baseball.

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