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Piece By Piece

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Twenty six more minutes.
Twenty six more minutes of torture.
Twenty six more minutes of Mr. Everhart endlessly droning on about the themes in A Tale of Two Cities, which Race’s class had been assigned to read over the Christmas break.
Twenty six more minutes until Race could finally leave.

Race glanced at the clock mounted on the wall above his English teacher’s head.
The minute hand moved to the number seven.
Twenty five more minutes.

Race inwardly groaned.

He’d been attempting to pay attention, but Mr. Everhart’s monotonous tone made it hard for him to stay focused. Race gave up on continuing to take notes, though he hardly had any to begin with, and quietly closed his binder. He propped his chin up on his hand and tuned Mr. Everhart’s voice out with little effort. He scanned the classroom; none of the students seemed remotely interested in their teacher’s lecture with the exception of one of Race’s close friends, Davey.

Race, at his desk in the back corner of the room near the wall, could see Davey, who sat in the front and center, bent over his desk, a few strands of brown hair falling into his face, scribbling notes on a sheet of paper that was already crammed with writing.

Race took his own pencil in hand and began to aimlessly doodle lightly in the top right corner of his desk. It wasn’t vandalism if he was going to erase it later, right?

After a few minutes of aimlessly marking up his desk, he noticed something on the bottom corner of the desk out of the corner of his eye that he was sure hadn’t been there the day earlier.
Two words had been scrawled in thick black letters: FUCK THIS

Race grinned. He was tempted to write something of his own underneath in response.

He thought for a moment before finally putting “FUCK EVERYTHING” in tiny cramped handwriting.

He wondered if the person who had written the original phrase would even see it. Or if he or she would even care.

Hopefully a teacher or the janitor wouldn’t erase the message by the next day.

~•~

Race pushed through the crowd of students in the hallway trying to reach his locker.
He shoved past two girls blocking his locker and muttered an apology as he fiddled with the lock. No sooner had he opened it when Jack and Davey approached him.

“Hey,” Race said without shifting his attention from shoving books in his backpack.

Jack grinned at him. “How was class with Everfart...ah, I mean Everhart,” he added after seeing the disapproving look Davey was giving him.

Race shrugged. “Boring as always.” He zipped up his bag and slammed the locker closed. He paused for a moment, a thought entering his mind.
“Heya, Davey. Can I see your notes from today?”

Davey raised an eyebrow and sighed. “Were you not paying attention again?”

“When does Race ever pay attention?” Jack laughed.

Race rolled his eyes but otherwise ignored Jack’s comment. “No, I’m just a slow writer so I wasn’t able to get everything down.”

Davey shook his head, exasperatedly. “I’ll text them to you later. Jack and I are going to go work on a project for Walton’s class now.”

Jack grimaced from behind Davey who took no notice.

“You guys got a project the first day back?” Race asked incredulously. He shook his head. He would never understand teachers.

The three boys joined the crowd headed down the hall towards the front doors while Davey was vocally listing the possible approaches he and Jack could take for their assignment. Suddenly from behind them came a loud shout. They, along with several other people near them turned to see what the commotion was.

Everyone parted to allow a blond-haired boy Race had never seen before, Race assumed he had transferred here for the second semester, stalk toward the doors, the high school’s linebacker, Morris Delancey, right on his heels.

“What did you say to me, shrimp?” Morris demanded. The boy turned around to look Morris in the eye and sneered, “You hard of hearin’ or something? You heard me, now beat it.”

Murmurs surfaced from the throng surrounding the two boys; few at the school had ever spoken to Morris so boldly before, nor to his brother Oscar who was the football team’s quarterback. Morris’s eyes narrowed and he stepped forward, but the blond didn’t back down.

“I think this kid’s got a death wish,” Race muttered to Jack and Davey who both nodded in agreement.

“It’s not like you two never mess with the Delanceys,” someone whispered from behind the three. Race looked back and saw that their friend Crutchie, whom they had fondly nicknamed because of his bad leg, had crept near them.

Race snorted. “Well we’ve known them since fourth grade,” Race nodded towards Jack who shot him a grin. “We know how to handle them. This guy looks new. He don’t know what’s coming for him,” he hissed back before turning his attention back to Morris and the blond kid.

They were still glaring one another down, but suddenly Morris shoved the smaller boy away from him and laughed when the other stumbled. His smirk was wiped off his face when the kid grabbed Morris by the front of his shirt and slammed him into a nearby set of lockers with surprising strength.

“I said beat it,” the boy growled at Morris. He released Morris and, without so much as a glance back towards him, walked out the door, students parting to let him by.

Morris glowered at the departing figure, but then turned and stomped off down the hall in the opposite direction.

Whispers grew to loud conversation once Morris was out of earshot.

“Wow I’ve never seen-”

“Who was that kid?”

“The look on Morris’s face-”

“-is new, right?”

“He was in my last period-”

“-kinda cute-”

“-heard he’s from Brooklyn-”

“Only two other people have ever-”
A few people glanced towards Jack and Race who successfully pretended not to notice. Jack and Race were notorious for being the few students who could throw a hit at the Delancey brothers and get away with it. They were jokesters and everyone admired their usually easygoing personalities, but no one ever dared to get on the two’s bad side. Jack and Race were good natured, aside from being sarcastic backhanded assholes, hey it was part of their charm, they knew how to give a good soaking as well.

“I know his last name is Conlon,” Davey muttered. His statement was met with raised eyebrows. “He was in my economic class. Didn’t say much else though.”

Crutchie broke the silence between the four friends that followed. "As entertaining as that was I really should get going. I'm meeting up with Mush to work on this project-"

"Snyder?" Jack interrupted. Crutchie nodded and Jack continued. "Me and Davey have him, too."

"Speaking of which," Davey said while checking his watch, "we should probably get going. I want to get as much done today as possible. See you guys later."

Jack rolled his eyes. "We have forever Davey, relax," he called after him but followed Davey out towards the parking lot anyway, waving to Crutchie and Race.

"I gotta go too," Crutchie said to Race. "Sorry I can't hang out or anythin'." He smiled apologetically.

Race gave a short laugh and shook his head. "Nah, you're fine. I have a buncha homework anyway," he sighed.

As he and Crutchie made their way outside, Race silently cursed that he'd forgotten his hat that day. Crutchie seemed much warmer than he felt, a black scarf secured around his neck, a navy blue hat pulled snug over his ears, and a light brown jacket shielding him from the icy wind.

Race only had on his dark red sweatshirt over a t-shirt that didn't help much in the chilly New York winter. He stuffed his hands in his sweatshirt pocket to warm them, his fingers pink and numb.

Crutchie had parked a few cars away from Race so they made the trek through the light dusting of snow together. Crutchie reached his first and bid Race goodbye with a friendly wave before disappearing into his car. Race continued farther along and unlocked his truck, a gray battered old thing, when it came into view.

He had backed out of the parking space and was pulling out of the row of cars when a red jeep almost rammed into the driver's side of his truck. Race slammed on his brakes, and it appeared the other driver had too. Race rolled down the window, ready to chew out the idiot who had tried to cut him off when obviously he'd had the right of way. He could only see a dark mass inside the jeep and squinted to see who it was.

A head popped out from the window of the jeep. He was wearing an expression of unconcern, apparently not repentant for nearly hitting Race, though he appeared slightly annoyed that he'd had to stop.

Race felt a flicker of recognition and strained to remember where he'd seen this guy before.

Then it hit him.
He'd seen him only a few minutes earlier.

First Morris and now Race.

Yeah, this Conlon kid really does have a death wish, Race thought to himself.