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“I’m Not Even Sure What 1+1 Is, But Still, I Want To Keep Protecting You.”

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Richie was a dick. He truly was. It wasn’t just his trashmouth and lack of filter, Richie was just plain mean. Stan, Bill, and Eddie tried to control him, but sometimes it just wasn’t worth the energy. Today, however, it would have been.

Richie had snuck away while Bill and Stan were trying to help Eddie. The small boy had been upset at his mother for telling him not to play on the jungle gym, and in retaliation, he had climbed the monkey bars at school, the one place she couldn’t control everything. Now, he was hanging on by one hand, screaming and crying. Bill stood under him, arms outstretched, ready to catch him if he fell. Stan had rushed off to get a teacher.

Henry Bowers was a sad and lonely kindergartener. He didn’t have any friends because everybody was afraid of him. Henry didn’t particularly mind this, but sometimes he got lonely. Five-year-olds need friends, but Henry just didn’t have any. That is why, during recess, all Henry did was sit on the swings and think. Think about who to scare and hurt and bother next.

Despite being feared throughout the class, it did not surprise him when a certain Richie Tozier approached him during recess. Richie could not keep his mouth shut for the life of him, and he certainly had a lot of opinions about Henry. Voicing those opinions were what got him in trouble with Henry so often. Richie never learned his lesson. The only sign on him that he had messed with the wrong person countless times was the tape holding his small yet thick glasses together.

On this particular day, Henry was in a bit of a bad mood. His dad had sent him to school without lunch, and Henry was hungry. Richie had chosen the wrong day to speak his mind. Not that any day was good to mess with Henry.

From across the playground, Henry heard Richie call out. “Hey, Bowers! What are you doing all alone on the swing set? Don’t have any friends? That’s kinda sad!” Henry, not really knowing why Richie loved to bother him, decided that he didn’t want any trouble today. He was too tired to fight back today. When Henry didn’t respond, Richie continued.

“Come on, I just wanna know why you sit on the swings every day at recess!” Richie sounded genuinely curious, but it pissed Henry off nonetheless.

Richie’s yelling had started to attract attention by now, Stan, Bill, and Eddie were making their way over, Eddie still with tears on his cheeks from the monkey bars scare. They weren’t the only ones that noticed, however, as another child was also watching from afar.

Richie was still yelling at Henry when his friends reached him. Bill’s eyes went wide, immediately understanding what was going on. “Richie, shut up! He’s going to hurt you!” Eddie, still shaken up, looked like he was ready to cry again. But Richie, being Richie, thought they were egging him on. He continued to yell and ask, infuriating Henry more and more.

Unbeknownst to everybody in the situation, the watcher decided he had enough. Suddenly, Richie felt as if the ground was shaking. Then, a shadow was cast over him from behind. He turned around slowly, afraid of what he would see. There stood Belch, the only other kid in kindergarten without any friends. The only difference between Henry and Belch was that Belch was two heads taller than Richie, and scared him. A lot.

A gruff voice came from his lips. “Leave. Him. Alone.” Richie was shaking in his little sneakers, frightened of this tall boy who had just spoken for the first time all year. However, even when terrified, his mouth never stopped moving.

Before he could stop it, Richie’s mouth opened once more, and out squeaked, “You don’t even know what one plus one is, what are you going to do?” As soon as what he had done had registered in his baby brain, he slapped a hand over his mouth and went deathly pale. “No, wait! I didn’t mean it, I swe-” He was cut off by a swing of a fist, and two snaps. One of his glasses, and one of his nose. He crumpled to the ground and everybody froze.

Henry, who had previously been watching from the swings, now was stood next to Belch, mouth agape. Richie’s friends stood still, afraid if they moved, they would get punched too. Wordlessly, Belch turned around and walked away.

Stan was the first to move. He hurriedly reached down and yanked his hurt friend up by his shirt collar. “What were you thinking? He coulda killed you!” The panic and pain set in all at once, and suddenly, Richie was bawling. Blood was streaming out of his nose, tears pooling in his eyes. Stan, still holding onto his shirt tightly, ran away as fast as he could, dragging Richie behind him. Snapping out of their trance, Bill and Eddie quickly chased after them, running off to tell the teacher.

The last person to move was Henry. He looked around the playground, eyes scanning for the boy who had just stood up for him. His eyes locked on Belch, alone once again, sitting atop a slide. Cautiously, Henry made his way over. Standing at the bottom of the slide, Henry called out to him.

“Why’d you do that?” Belch turned to look at him, surprised Henry had followed him. “Why’d you punch Richie?”

Belch thought for a moment before responding. “I may not be sure what one plus one is, but still, I want to keep protecting you.”