At St. Christopher School in Kent, Ohio, they still made you go outside for recess in eighth grade. So my friends and I would gather in a circle in the corner of the playground furthest from the recess monitor and talk while all the kids who enjoyed recess played basketball or jumped rope or swapped Magic cards.
There were four of us in the group, and we stood in the same place in the circle each day. To my left was Tony, full grown at fourteen with a smattering of precocious stubble on his chin and a white patch above his right eye where his long-gone father burned him with a cigarette. Next to him was Tristan, the bantam of the group, a red-haired live wire who’d already been arrested twice—once for stealing a pack of Virginia Slims and once for choking a guy at McDonalds who called him a leprechaun. Completing the circle was Grant, tall and curly-headed, quiet and composed, the voice of reason in an otherwise unreasonable group. He was the only one of us who had parents that were still together, the only one who lived in a respectable-looking middleclass home where everyone gathered for dinner every night.
We always talked about the same things during recess: Tarantino movies, the hotness of Natalie Portman, how much we hated Kent, the stupidity of recess. One day at the end of May, I decided to shake it up by introducing a new topic.
“Let’s do a prank,” I said. “A little parting fuck you to the school.”
“What kind of prank?” said Tristan, grinning.
I proposed a few different ideas, but the one that everyone got behind—everyone but Grant who thought it would be too much work—was sneaking into the school at night, taking as many desks as we could out of the building and piling them on the front lawn.
“The teachers will go ape shit,” I said. “It’ll be hilarious.”
The following night, we got into the building through Ms. Shaw’s window, opened the front doors, and started taking out desks. Between midnight and two, we managed to bring out ninety-four—not all of the desks in the school, but enough to cause a major disruption in the morning. When we were done, we stood in front of the mountain of rusty steel and laminate wood and had a nice long belly laugh. Even Grant was laughing.
I walked home alone that night and found my mom sitting out in the yard, her make-up smeared, her eyes bloodshot. Her things were scattered around her—her high heels, dresses, books, and records. It was the second time her boyfriend, Rick, had thrown her and her stuff out. He was probably asleep in the living room next to a heap of empty beer bottles.
“Come on,” I said, picking up a soggy Fleetwood Mac record. “Let’s bring this junk in.”
Jack Somers’ work has appeared in a number of magazines and journals including Jellyfish Review, Midwestern Gothic, Literary Orphans, and The Molotov Cocktail. He has stories forthcoming in WhiskeyPaper and Fictive Dream. You can find him on Twitter @jsomers530 or visit him online at jacksomerswriter.com.
Image: Matheus Ferrero