Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Red Sheet

The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick


October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different
person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities
he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his
neck like a cape.

Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more
unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees,
helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere
he finds it.

Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the
former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott
from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive
in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall
behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.

Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is
shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed
by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and
improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes
Bryan’s obsession.


I mean, I’d known there was tension between Brandon and me,
but at least five other guys, mainly the juniors, were involved in this
afternoon’s, well, I’ll call it an “expression of dissatisfaction” with yours
truly. It went something like this: My shots got blocked with more than a bit
too much in-your-face attitude for tryouts. I got elbowed on almost every drive
to the basket. I “accidentally” got tripped about six times. Nobody would pass
to me, the team’s best shooter, until the coach started screaming about it. But
I refused to let them intimidate me, as I recognized that basketball was a game
of mental toughness, and although I was different now, that didn’t mean I was
in any way weak. Before my change, I’d thought I was strong because I stood
with the crowd, right or wrong, as there was safety in numbers. Now, I knew for
a fact I was strong because I had the confidence that came from standing up for
what was right.

I had no doubt that I would make the varsity basketball
team, and, because of my height and shooting ability, I’d start at center, or
power forward, as I had done sophomore year. I realized that Brandon would also
start on varsity thanks to his size and natural athleticism. But the other guys
had to be a little bit more careful about acting like total assholes in front
of Coach Morris, because their spots were not quite so secure. And these guys
included Jack Jackson, Kevin Broughton, and both the Mikes, O’Reilly and
Delgado. All my former best buds, until—in their minds, at least—I went all
Benedict Arnold on them and moved to the Social Justice League Table at lunch.
And started treating people with the respect they deserved.

So, yeah, I was ready for it. After the coach said the teams
would be posted on the school website that night, we all hit the showers, aka
the place where all assholes thought men and boys could be separated. But
usually, that was only because there was safety in numbers, and in the showers,
whenever there was trouble, the big loudmouths were the ones the crowd usually
stood behind.

Brandon was as big and loud as they come, but I was
definitely not his usual opponent, seeing as I was usually one of the guys
standing behind him. And the targets we chose were always in some way less than
us. I realized that we picked on those who were less tall, less strong, less
popular, and less socially adept. So when Brandon and Mike Delgado (big, yes,
and definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed, not to be mean or anything)
were the two who stepped forward—once I was bare-assed, of course—I wasn’t at
all surprised.

“Where’s your pansy boyfriend?” Brandon, as could’ve been
predicted, slung his bullshit at me first.

“Yeah, douche bag!” Delgado served as the echo.

Good one, Delgado. I stepped under the spray of water. “What
do you guys want?”

“We just wanna have a nice little chat with you.”

“So, go ahead and chat. I don’t see anybody stopping you.” I
closed my eyes to let the water flow over my face, but more importantly, to
show these assholes that I wasn’t afraid of them.

When my eyes were shut, a few other guys came forward to
close the circle around me.
“We wanna know what’s goin’ on in your head, Dennison.
’Cause to us, it looks kinda like you’re losin’ your fuckin’ marbles.” Brandon
was so close I could feel the heat of his body beside me. In fact, I was sure
he was getting backsplashed by the water that bounced off my chest.

I opened my eyes and leveled them on him. “I didn’t lose my
mind. It’s actually just the opposite. I found it.” I proceeded to squirt some
shampoo from the wall dispenser into my hand, and then washed and rinsed my
hair right in front of my little audience.

Finally, Delgado pushed me against the wall. “Listen up,
Dennison. You gotta get your head back in the game—with us—where it fuckin’

All of my “friends” stared at me as I struggled to break out
of his grasp. “Get off me, Delgado!”

Brandon added his hands to my chest, beside Delgado’s.
“We’re not lettin’ go ’til you tell us what we wanna hear. We want you back
with us guys at lunch, and back with us in classes, ’cause that’s the only way
we can be a real winning team… like we were before.”

Then Mike O’Reilly made his move. “I’m sick of seeing you
and Gay Boy together all the time. It’s so fucked-up!” Before I had a chance to
twist away, his fist snuck into the narrow alley between Brandon and Delgado
and found my nose.

I didn’t even have time to turn around. “You’re gonna be the
asshole who brings our whole team down, shit-for-brains!” Kevin Broughton was
the next to take a swing. He got me square in my right eye.

That’s when both of the Mikes grabbed an arm and held me to
the wall and Brandon let loose all of his frustrations on my gut. He kept
saying, “Think about it! Think about this!” as he punched me. When he decided
he’d made his point, he said, “Let him go.” And then my former best pal looked
away, very careful not to meet my eyes.

“Not gonna look at me now, huh, Wilson?” I lifted my hand to
my nose to check for blood. Finding red, I stepped back into the spray of water
to rinse it off.

“Nothin’ much to look at. Except an asshole who’s gonna smarten up.”

“Yeah, and change his ways.” Delgado looked at Brandon for
approval of his remark. He got it in the form of a quick nod.

I examined the pissed-off faces of the guys I’d played ball
with since I’d moved here when I was eight years old. And I realized that I
didn’t know them at all.

“See ya at lunch tomorrow, buddy.” Those were the final, and
very sarcastic, words Brandon tossed at me, before he turned and left with his
little army of bullies trailing behind him.
With my face directed up at the nozzle, I stood under the
drizzle of warm water until I was calm enough to go back to the locker room,
get dressed, and then head home. But it took me a while to chill out. I was
actually shaking a bit, from fear or anger or… the simple knowledge that I had
just been pushed around. As I dressed, the locker room was close to silent, and
I could tell that the guys from the other grades were trying their hardest not
to stare. Because they couldn’t believe what they’d seen: popular jock Bryan
Dennison, high scorer in last year’s basketball season, even as a sophomore,
had just gotten knocked against the wall, threatened, and beat on like he was
nobody special.

Bryan Dennison had been forced to stand alone. He’d just
been the targeted kid… the bullied one. And the rest of my teammates had all
literally watched in silence as my face had gotten pummeled on, and then, they
had figuratively been witnesses to my slide down to the very bottom of the
social status totem pole.

But in a fucked-up way I was thankful. I’d taken a few steps
in Scott’s shoes. I’d experienced a taste of what he’d lived through, probably
on a regular basis, and what had molded him into the person he was. No, it
hadn’t been fun, but it had been enlightening.

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About the Author:

Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five non-pedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

My themes I always write about:
Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes - only love can save them.

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