Casualty

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James had always been a kid that stuck to himself. He was sarcastic, brutally honest, fiercely private, and smart as a whip, a combination that seemed to be the perfect formula for a life of solitude. Of course, that suited James just fine (more out of necessity than preference) given his nature and less than graceful skills at navigating social situations. His winning personality coupled with his lanky scarecrow like appearance and often serious demeanor seemed to give most people the impression that he was either perpetually dissatisfied or constipated. However, in truth, James was the exact opposite. He was prone to flights of whimsy, quite kind, and enjoyed regular bowel movements. Still it seemed that despite his best intentions he was doomed to a life of solitude even now as he was poised to leave his adolescence behind and enter the world of adulthood.

“James do you have a girlfriend?” a curvaceous young lady asked pensively as they both exited the gymnasium.

“Nope,” replied James as he so often did, in hopes of ending the conversation as quickly as possible

“Why?” asked the pensive young lady.

You ask too many damn questions thought James. But airing on the side of his better judgement replied, “I’m not in a rush to find anyone” (which was partly true) in his usual nonchalant tone.

Having gathered the information she wanted to hear, the pensive young lady departed. Meanwhile, James moved through the school corridors dejectedly with his backpack over his right shoulder as he always did. Suddenly he was awakened from his daze by his sudden realization of what had just happened.

“Was she hitting on me? No couldn’t be. Well James let’s not sell yourself short you’re an attractive young man with plenty to offer. You’re funny, above average height, hell you’ve even got a dimple. You’re a triple threat,” thought James as he pondered the possibility of his potential love interest.

Having now convinced himself he would have to now deal with flocks of rabid fangirls given the awakening of his aura of raw sexual energy, he allowed his head to swell. In truth, this wasn’t the first time a girl had shown interest in James. In fact, many girls had found him attractive; the problem was his general obliviousness to their advances. Now satisfied with himself James departed to his next class.

 “James!” shouted a busty young woman in a comically baritone voice.

“Cheyenne” replied James in his usual mono-toned voice.

“How are you?” replied Cheyenne.

“I’m doing pretty much the same as I was when I saw you yesterday but thanks for the interest in the happenings of my daily life. How are you doing?” replied James only half serious.

As Cheyenne commenced talking about her well-being, James found himself thinking about the pensive young lady with whom he’d spoken earlier and thought “hmm she was cute…and thick too maybe I should talk to her.”

By the time James returned to reality Cheyenne had finished her story and their teacher had begun the day’s lesson on WWII. However, having already learned the material, James simply fixed his eyes to the slowly rotating hand of the wall clock above his instructor until the end of the period. It wasn’t long after that, freedom rang from the from the foothills of the Freshman building to the rocky tables of the Cafeteria and he could shout “free of class, free of class, thank God almighty we’re free of class.”

Of course, this elation was short lived as James shuffled on to his next class. This time it was secretarial work. Having already met his credit requirement he was allowed to spend a free period assisting the school counselors.

“Hey Miss Graves, what’s good!” said James as he made his way into the cramped office .

Within the cramped space sat 3 smaller offices of differing counselors assigned to various function within each grade level. James made his way toward the back-left corner greeting his favorite counselor Ms. Graves and then returned to the front of the office and took his seat in an old desk chair at the front of the office. As he began to spin back and forth in the chair in hopes of alleviating his boredom, the door suddenly opened. It was another young woman from his P.E class, whom he avoided as a rule on account of her body odor. She approached the desk and asked if her counselor was in. He backed away but then remembered his job.

“What’s your last name?” asked James hoping to handle the matter as professionally as possible.

“Lewis,” Responded the young women in her loud nasally voice.

“Okay. Your counselor is Mrs. Raineer she’s not in right now, but you can have a seat in the chairs behind you until she returns.” said James dutifully.

As James returned to his chair and commenced his spinning, he saw the young women over the counter and began to regret his decision to ask her to have a seat. With each passing moment James began to think of how this moment would be significantly better if he had been alone. Just as James had begun to lament his fate, he found deliverance in the form of that familiar chime signaling the start of the next class period, it was gym.

As the next class began James trudged into gym class half-asleep as he so often did. He absent-mindedly moved across the gymnasium, making his way towards the locker room. As he did so he passed the array of classmates which in his not so humble opinion had all begun to blur together. Strangely enough, his eye was drawn to one of the faces among the amalgam of what he considered unremarkable. As he snuck a glance, he noticed the face to be the inquisitive young lady from the other day. After a moment, the young lady’s eyes met his gaze and realizing what he’d been doing all this time James continued into the locker room.

After exiting the locker room James made his way to his usual spot on the bleachers as he waited for the day’s activities to commence. Shortly after, their gym teacher announced in a voice that was the auditory equivalent of sandpaper that the class would be playing a modified form football. The rules stipulated that the ball carrier would only be allowed to take two steps, after which they’d have to throw the ball to a teammate this would continue until a touchdown or turnover occurred. The teacher asked for two team captains as he passed out blue and red jerseys. At this point James attempted to avoid his teacher’s gaze; he hated unwarranted attention. Unfortunately, James was selected as a captain and was now burdened with the task of choosing a team from the motley crew of students available (most of which would not participate). As he did so he perused the crowd for individuals who he believed satisfied the requirements of athleticism coupled with a bearable personality.

 “I’ll take Kayla,” said James as he smirked inwardly.

She moved forward and stood behind him. All the while James stood glassy eyed contemplating his next move. It wasn’t until his gym teacher, Coach Stackhouse, shouted at him to make his next pick that James awoke from his daze. Slightly frightened and irritated by Coach Stackhouse’s interruption of his thoughts, James flashed the middle-aged man a cross glance. Having already achieved his primary purpose, James simply began randomly selecting teammates. Shortly after, Coach Stackhouse lined the two teams up on the opposing baselines of the gymnasium and blew his whistle signaling the start of the game. James suddenly realized the terrible selections he had made and looked at his team. He immediately began to chastise himself for not using the proper head when selecting his team.

“Well I suppose it can’t be helped now,” James said internally monologuing . While James was certainly no athlete, he had always had a measure of athleticism, something he hoped would serve him well in today’s trials. As he took the football in hand to do what could best be described as snapping the football, he took 2 elongated steps in hopes of minimizing the amount of time his teammates would have the ball. Having taken the 2 permitted steps, he was forced to pass the ball. He looked around and realized he had in his moment of sin selected Nico. Nico was a tall young man with an athletic build and an average level of coordination so seeing no other palatable option he cocked back and let the small foam football sail through the stale gymnasium air. As the pass wobbled through the air James stood with bated breath as Nico, seeing the incoming pass, prepared himself to receive it. However, as the ball moved through the air it was met by a sudden impediment in the form of one of many low hanging industrial lights. As the ball bounced off the light it made its way down toward the gymnasium floor with renewed velocity. Whether by divine providence or devilish intervention the ball barreled downward until it found its place of rest atop Kayla’s head. Kayla unsuspecting, and devoid of any reflexes to speak of, keeled over from the impact and came to rest on the ground in a sort of prone position.

James looked on struggling to hold back tears, as the laughter began to creep from his lips. In an effort to preserve the fledgling relationship, James did the only thing he knew to do in such a situation. After a brief pause, he looked to Nico and shouted

“What the hell man?” hoping to sound as sincere as possible.

Nico looked on in horror as if he’d actually been responsible for Kayla’s low state. James began to nod disapprovingly at Nico hoping to escape blame.  He began admonishing Nico for his “role” in the incident. Building off the situation, James ran to Kayla’s aid asking if she was okay.

“I’m fine,” she said looking visibly upset.

James thought to himself, “there’s no way she could have seen that I was the one that hit her, hell she didn’t even see the ball coming.” James having done his due diligence simply helped the young women up as Coach Stackhouse blew the whistle signaling that the game had commenced once more. The game continued for the remainder of the class and through some miracle James’ team actually managed to win.

            After the class had concluded James spoke with Kayla about how Nico had so inconsiderately hit her with a football. Amazingly Kayla hadn’t put two and two together so seizing the opportunity James made his move.

“Hey Kayla, do you wanna do something this weekend?” James asked quickly.

James had never been the kind to put himself out there and in truth he’d even surprised himself in asking Kayla out. However, James’ risk was rewarded as Kayla blushed and let out a timid “Okay”.

“What do you wanna do?” asked James, totally unaware of what he’d just signed up for.

“We can hang out with my friends; we were planning to do something this weekend anyway,” Kayla said self-satisfied.

James quickly agreed given he hadn’t thought far enough ahead to even plan a date. And so, the date was set in just a few short hours James would go on his first real date. As time passed, James grew more and more uneasy.  He began to think about the possibility that perhaps he wasn’t as good with the fairer sex as his delusions led him to believe. However, James’ trepidation would have to wait. Before he knew it, the appointed time had come, and Kayla and her friends had arrived to pick him up and embark on a night to remember.

“HEY JAMES!” shouted a nasally voice from a quickly approaching white minivan.

“Hey Natalia,” said James as he commented on the minivan.

The van was packed. Amongst the inhabitants were: Brian, a short stocky young man whom James had met in his homeroom., Natalia, Kayla’s best friend, her boyfriend Kenny and Beverly a portly young woman James had met in his 10th grade English class. As James took a seat, he was greeted by a sea of salutations to which he gave a singular “sup” and shifted his focus to Kayla. As the two sat canoodling, a sudden ringing interrupted their trance like state. Brian answered the phone and shortly after a look of dread crept across his face. Having seen his distressed countenance Kayla began questioning him.

“What’s wrong?” Kayla asked.

“It’s Ebony apparently she’s pregnant” said Brian visibly upset. The air drained from the packed minivan.

“Who?” said James with a look of confusion

“Ebony,” responded Natalia. “she’s a girl from school. I think she’s in the class under us. But between me and you she’s kind of a free spirit if you know what I mean.” James starred at Natalia for a moment as the gears in his head worked to make sense of what he’d just heard. The car had gotten quiet as the passengers all fixed their eyes on James awaiting his response. Suddenly James broke the silence with a loud exclamation.

“Ohhh…she’s a ho!” James said having put the pieces together.

“I was trying not to say that but yes,” said Natalia laughing.

“Well if that’s the case that may not even be your problem my man,” said James, laughing. The car got quiet again as they all looked at James. Things started to get a bit awkward, so James decided to break the silence the best way that he knew how.

“Well what do you want to do man” said James trying to look as serious as possible.

“Man, she’s lying,” said Brian hoping to convince himself.

“That’s basically what I just said!” said James still hoping to explain his previous statement.

“Here you talk to her Kayla,” said Brian hoping to rid himself of the situation.

Kayla, having had a prior history with Ebony, took this opportunity to antagonize Ebony as best she could. She began raining down insults and questioning her womanly virtue. James looked on in horror. The situation began to quickly break-down and before Brian could make sense of the chaos, he’d received yet another frantic call. This time it was his cousin Amber.

“Brian there’s someone outside the house,” said Amber with a palpable sense of dread.

“What!” said Brian.

Naturally, Brian decided to assist his cousin and the minivan altered its course for Brian’s home. As the minivan slowly crept near Brian’s home a black Chrysler 300 could be seen lurking on the opposite side of the street. Brian called Amber and told her he was outside. Amber quickly ran to meet Brian as both Brian and James stepped out.

“What the hell’s going on?” shouted Brian.

James sat quietly behind Brian hoping to glean a bit more information from their conversation.

“That black Chrysler has been sitting here for 2 hours just watching the house” said Amber trying not to make any obvious gestures toward the vehicle.

Upon hearing Amber’s concerns, Brian decided to take the direct approach. Brian moved towards the vehicle hellbent on finding some answers. James grabbed him before he could move any closer to the vehicle, hoping to convince him to move with a bit more prudence.

Maybe you shouldn’t just rush a suspicious vehicle,” said James calmly

Man, he’s not gonna do anything. He just trying to scare us

That’s a fair point but what if he’s not,” said James trying to be as logical as possible.

“Look man, I ain’t no punk so, either let me go or back me up,” said Brian as he shook from James’ grip.

“Alright man, I got your 6. Just be careful,” said James feeling uneasy.

“Thanks man,” Brian said with a smile

Brian approach the car slowly with James in toe. As they inched closer Kayla and Brianna could be seen peeking from the minivan. Amber could be seen through a small slit in the blinds and Natalia and Kenny sat arguing over in the backseat of the minivan over who would lay claim to the last remaining window.

“Aye man, what are you doing?” shouted Brian having finally reached the black Chrysler.

 “You Brian” said the man in the Chrysler unflinchingly

“Wait,” said James before being interrupted by Brian.

“Yeah!” shouted Brian even more furious this time.

The man in the Chrysler slowly raised his hand as he clutched a small pistol. Both Brian and James turned deathly pale. As the man took aim, both Brian and James darted in opposite directions. As the bullets rang out. The girls watched in horror as they sat in the minivan.  All that could be heard were the screams of Amber still watching at the window of her home and the screech of the tires as the black Chrysler 300 sped away from the scene. The street was silent. As James looked around to survey the situation, he looked to see if anyone had been hit, it seemed as if everyone had managed to make it out of the ordeal without a scratch. The minivan let out a collective sigh as Brian and Amber hugged one another thankful for their lives. Meanwhile James smiled a half smile as he collapsed to the ground.

END

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