A/N: Please forgive the crudeness of my southern dialect. I'm trying and it's not easy to write in. That's why it may sound funny in a few parts. Reviews...as always...are apprecitaed and I do respond to them. So if you want any questions or comments answered...REVIEW!!! Anyways...

Six Pack and a Deck of Playing Cards

Chapter 1: Damn Accent

Somebody asked me the other day why not too many stories are told about Arkansas. I said because anybody who talks or writes about us would be a fool. A damn fool at that. No self-respecting novelist, journalist, or plain educated person would want to even think about measly ol' Arkansas. I mean…we're basically Kansas with an "arrrr" in the front. We've been done…our time is over. There pretty much wasn't anything worth talkin' about after the Civil War. And yet…I have to wonder as well. Why aren't there stories? Why don't we have books written on us? Because everything here is a secret. Someone's business is nobody else's business except theirs. That's the golden rule. You don't ask no questions, you don't expect no answers. Gossip is a pastime for old women and housewives, but they even keep it to themselves. The tiny little worlds we create to hold all our little secrets are the only things that get us through the day. Without them, the shitty world of Arkansas would take hold and no one would want to live and smile anymore. Well…I guess sometimes…those little worlds have to be exposed. And when they do…I bet that'll make for an interesting story.

(0)

First day of school. God do I hate school. Why do we still have mandatory public schooling? Personally, I find it a waste of my time. I could be doing chores or working and actually making a life for myself. All I do at school is stare out a window or sleep on my desk. About the only thing I ever learned at school was the alphabet and my numbers. After that, there's no point to listening anymore. Shakespeare? Calculus? Who needs those? The only real skill you need is how to make a living. Okay…hard to buy? I'll admit I know a little more than just my numbers and letters. Sometimes I get in the swing of being like my folks. Acting stupid and ignorant. It's not very much fun trying to dumb yourself down in a school system like this. About every year my teachers suggest bumping me up to the AP classes. I hate that. I never want to be in with all those kids. For one, they all hate me, and two, the rest of the kids at school hate me as well. This year was no exception. I refused the higher weighted classes and stuck with my basics. Fine by me. Easy as hell and no one ever looks at me. I keep quiet and let them get the answers wrong. I deliberately try to screw up on tests…but sometimes I like to have some fun and answer all of them right. However, I always get caught up in my writing. I can't dumb down writing. It's hard. So every time my English teacher sees my paper he/she flips out. See why it sucks? I don't need to be even more awkward in this school. God only knows that now that I'm starting high school today, I don't want to be the center of attention. If I can't get through the next four years unnoticed it would be a blessing.

Alright, guess I didn't mention that I'm a new freshman. Yeah…only 13, too. Yeah…young, huh? Didn't expect that, huh? I know, it's weird. I have one of those really late birthdays where I barely got into the grade higher than where I was supposed to be. Sucky sometimes, but it has its perks. At least I get outta this damn place quicker.

Right now, I attend Herzman High School. I know…weird name. Probably the gayest thing ever come up with for a town name. But that's where I live as well. Ever since I was a little sprout in my mama's tummy. The school's small and poor. 140 students…including all four classes. My class is the biggest with about 53 people in it. Herzman has grown considerably bigger over the last decade, but only by a smidge. But hey…more money flowin' in I guess…so no one complains. The school facilities suck and so do most of the staff. No air conditioning in the summer so we resort to about ten fans per room with usually an individual one per person. The rooms are small and cramped. And yes, we do still use chalkboards. Your nostrils begin to burn so badly that you you're in a god damn silo. Our gym is rickety with benches that splinter. Yeah…I know, what a bitch. Somehow, people manage to slip on through and jam themselves in-between each other to sit on something that looks like it's going to fall apart. I, however, stand along the sides. Away from the sight of others…watching closely.

Our principal, Mr. Fareman, (what a joke, huh?) loves to give forty minute speeches. Usually on the rules of the current facility we inhabit. I have to remember that this is the first time I've ever been in this high school as an actual student. Though everything that happens is what was to be expected. My class looks like a herd of goats trembling in fear of the coyotes we like to call seniors. They're taller, stronger, and ruthless. Well…that's to be expected in a place where high school means everything to almost everyone. Even me.

The first bell rang and I didn't have much trouble finding my first class. Not like you can get lost in such a small school, but it could have happened. Luckily, I was smart enough to wander the halls before school started to find all of my classes beforehand. I don't like being late…at all.

English was my first period. Big surprise. It usually is. I remembered in Jr. high that is always was because they just always had the intermediate classes in the same order. English, Math, Science, and History. That way they could get us out of the way for the real students. And by George, that was pretty much my schedule. Throw in PE (worst class ever created), Comp, Study Hall, and Computer App. (yeah…we actually do have computers in this school).

I took a seat on the very left side of the room. Not in the last row, didn't want the teacher to think I was some deviant. No…took my place right by a window in the seat right in front of the last row. Now I would be looked over and probably would be lucky enough where I wouldn't have to speak up that often in class. Other students began to filter in. Usually clearing away from me. I don't know why people didn't like me or felt I was diseased. It's just something I should just figure by now. Eventually, there weren't many seats left and the room was getting pretty full. Over crowdedness in this school was an understatement.

To my left sat a short, pudgy girl with auburn hair and freckles. I believe her name was Megan and something that starts with an "R." In front of me sat Michael Jodenbury who had a knack for scribbling his marks of graffiti into every desk he came across. I was always interested to sit in his desk some day and just read the things he'd come up with. "All dogs eat shit. All shit smells like shit. Shit, shit, shit." Hmm…wonder what his favorite word is.

And behind me sat Matthew Fitzgerald. Actually, I didn't know his name at the time. Didn't even know who the hell he was. Didn't care much either. Though after the next two periods I would grow to hate him so much. He made my first day of high school a living hell. Not to mention I was just plain jealous of him. I remember him laughing and screwing around with his new "buddies" and interrupting Mr. Fareman over and over again. I almost felt like yelling at them because I didn't want Mr. Fareman to keep stopping and quieting them down again. But anyways, here for an hour and already has friends. I've been here all my life and yet to know anyone I could call that. At least at school that is.

The thing that irritated me the most was his accent. It was so different. It had a Midwestern/Chicago sound to it. Obviously he was a Yankee. An arrogant one at that.

"Ah shit." He whispered rather loudly to himself, "Why do I have to sit behind the queer kid."

Okay, this was not unusual. I don't know why exactly, but for some reason…anytime someone didn't like you, you became a queer to them. So…going with the flow, I was pretty much a queer to everyone. What a sucky title, huh? Yeah, probably why most girls don't look at me.

I didn't say anything. I didn't want to mess with it. Ignore it. That's what I've always done. But that tone he had. That accent…the timing…everything was so aggravating. I hated that kid with a passion.

(0)

I wont' go into detail about classes. Mainly because I barely pay attention to them enough while I'm in there to really relay details about them here. So on with my day and we come to lunch. I hated lunch. If you haven't figured out by now, I pretty much hate everything that has to do with school. I'd probably like lunch if I didn't have to pray to get a table at the beginning of the year. A place where the kids at it would just scoot over and ignore me being there so I could eat in peace.

I looked around, but saw nothing that seemed possible. I only knew about a quarter of the people since all the older students were a whole other group. I bit my lip in anxiety. If I couldn't find a place to eat I'd be stuck just going to the library and starving until I got home. I closed my eyes and would decide I'd pick the first table I saw. When I opened them again all of them were a blur. I couldn't tell which one I had seen first. That sucked too.

I looked to my right and heard some jabbering going on. Surprise…it was Megan R-something laughing her ass off. I swear that girl almost had milk squirt out her nose and onto the other girl's face. There were about four seats open and I figured that'd be a good place to start. I didn't know Megan, but I doubt she'd care much if I decided to sit next to her in lunch as well as English.

I was quiet…moving only when necessary. I slipped into the seat about a chair away from Megan and she glanced over me with tears in her eyes. Her face was queer, but I think the thought of me sitting there only went through her head in a split second. She turned away again, pretending I wasn't even there. Just how I liked it.

Until, "Who's your friend, Megan?" The other girl looked at me. She had acknowledged me…probably because she didn't know better not to.

Megan looked at me once more as if surprised that I was there. I guess she had already put me out of her mind and when I popped back in she was taken back.

"I don't know. He sits next to me in English though, quiet as hell."

As if she didn't know me. In our school, everyone knew everyone. There weren't enough people to lie about that.

"I see…so what's your name?" Her voice was pure and light. Her brunette hair was swiped out of her hair as her hazel eyes poured into mine.

Name…what was that again? Never say it enough to recall it on the spot like that, "Uh…name's Zachariah, miss. And yours?" Whoa…too polite for me.

She giggled, "That's quite an introduction, Zachariah. You plan on bein' governor with that talk?" Her joke was clean and sincere. I didn't feel bad the way she talked to me. Not like when other people do.

"Well, no…not really, miss, but I just talk this way because that's how my mama taught me." I think I blushed.

She smiled, "That's sweet. My name is Nancy. And please quit callin' me 'Miss.' It makes me feel kinda old."

"Sorry. Just used to talkin' to people older than me." Wasn't that truth. The only people I really talked to were adults anyways.

"So you're a freshman, huh? Don't be too afraid. Us upperclassmen aren't all sharks." She smiled and winked at me. Her emotions seeming to glide off her face.

"That's awfully kind of you, mi-…I mean…Nancy…but I reckon I won't be spendin' too much time with the upperclassmen. I just plan on sticking with myself." I scratched my head. Nervous reaction.

"What a shame. You seem like a nice kid. Shame we can't hang out." She looked at Megan, who apparently had no idea what was going on and just smiling like an idiot.

"Well thanks a lot. I'd be honored to hang out with you." I know I was smiling really huge now. Good pick.

"Well, here…" She took out a pen and paper from her purse, "my cell is…" she wrote it down.

She slid it across the table like some type of dirty bribe and I took it willingly. I gripped it tightly and slid it into the front pocket of my jeans. I did not want to lose that. Never…

I'm not too sure what the rest of lunch was like, but I grew quite fond of both Nancy and Megan. They were funny and I started to see that Megan was more like Nancy's sidekick than anything else. I was glad to be a part of that group. At least…some group. The fact that a girl as pretty as Nancy would even consider talking to me was a great pleasure. Megan was fun, too. She had a lot of dirty jokes though. Too many for my taste, but I figured I'd get used to them.

(0)

PE…what fun. This really is the worst class invented. At least for me. I hate dressing with guys. It's disgusting. They reek and are loud. I try to get out of there as quickly as possible, but I never get through a single period without someone making some stupid "gay joke" comment about someone. It never fails. I've gotten it down to dressing in about 8 seconds. Though…there was one thing I forgot they did in high school. It was mandatory…showering…

Now this is the last thing I wanted to do is get naked with all these smelly boys and have them look at me too. I didn't need anymore things like that. I'm just uncomfortable around guys. That's why I probably had such an easy time talking to Nancy and Megan. I can't make guy friends. I get all nervous and flustered and just plain don't know how to relate to them. But…mandatory showers meant something and I had to deal with hit. My plan was to go in…look down…and head for the left corner. Not the right because I'm sure that's where everyone else would go. I'd turn my back and starting singing my ABCs and once I hit "Z" I'd run out of there. Problem done…plus I wouldn't have to listen to them if I sang loud enough in my head. Great…

Luckily today was just orientation. We got our clothes and were assigned lockers. As soon as I stepped in, it already reeked of boys. I wanted to vomit. I had been free of that stench for a whole summer and I was now exposed to it without warning. Sucky.

For some reason the coach…didn't know his name since everyone called him coach…put me right next to Jason Masters. Alright, if you don't already know, Jason Masters is the biggest dick there ever was. He's a senior and loves it. Meaning he gets off on just seeing little, puny freshman like me squirm in-between his fingers. Being next to him meant I was going to be subjected to the majority of his wrath. Oh joy. God I hate life.

"Who's this scrawny fag?" He looked down at me. Yeah…he was about a foot taller. What can I saw? It sucks.

I looked away, ignoring him. I put my things in my locked and began to walk away.

"Aww…queer boy doesn't want to talk to me. Guess he just wants it up the ass."

First of all…that made absolutely no sense. Another thing…Jason wasn't known for his logic and deductive reasoning. He was known for his good looks, cruel personality, and nice car. But as my brother always said, "The nicer the car…the smaller the penis."

I smiled on the inside, but didn't say anything. He came over to me and I just looked down at the ground. Everyone was staring, or at least that's what I thought. People didn't know who I was, and yet it seemed like they were always watching me regardless.

"Jason…I think you gotta talk nice to him before he'll spread his legs for you." It was that damn accent again. Fuckin' Fitzgerald.

"I guess so, Matt. Do I need to tell you how pretty you are before you take it up the ass? You like it up the ass don't you?" He flicked me in the ear. GOD! how annoying that is. I pretty much wanted to cry. I was in a situation where I couldn't get out of. My face was beating red and my heart was running a hundred miles per hour.

My mom always told me to just let a bully do whatever. Just ignore their torment and they'll get tired of you eventually. Except…they never do. They thrive on making you suffer. They can't wait to see you cry. Ignoring them only makes them try harder. It's like sex. All I'm doing is torturing them until when I finally react they'll jiz all over themselves.

So…the only weapon I had was to get them off quickly.

"We-well…your mom likes…" Oh shit, where was I going with this?

"What's that, fag boy?" He mocked me and put his ear down close to me.

I think I entered temporary insanity here, "YOUR MOM LIKES IT UP THE ASS!!"

The room froze. My voice echoed and I was up against the lockers in the next moment. I was blank…everything stopped. I could feel myself hanging by the arms of my shirt. My feet were above the ground and I was about to pass out.

"Don't you ever talk about my mama like that. You got me!" This wasn't just a simple good comeback. I had hit somewhere no one ever dared to go. I had done something that would probably fuck up the rest of my freshman year.

"YOU GOT ME!" He screamed into my face. His breath stunk of tobacco and my eyes watered from fear. I would scream for help but my voice was gone. I nodded it quickly to have him just let me go.

He dropped me on the ground and punched a locker next to him.

I hear, "Let it go, Jason" Damn accent.

I'm crying on the inside. Such torment I try to escape and I only get fucked up in the end.

(0)

By the end of the day…my hands are shaking. It takes me three times before I remember my locker combo to get my book bag out of my locker. I jump as soon as I hear a voice behind me.

"Hey, Zach." Nancy's face is startled as I turn with a white one of my own.

"Sorry…didn't mean to spook ya'. I just wanted to know if you wanted to…"

My body went numb. I wanted to cry in her arms, but I didn't think they would hold me yet so I just threw my hands to my face and began to breath heavy.

"What's wrong, Zach?" She put her hand on my shoulder…the first…

"Jason Masters. I think I really fucked myself over on this one." Whoa…said the f-word and don't even know if she's real Christian or not.

"Oh…you're scared of Jason? Come on…he's just a giant ham on a stick. There's nothing to be afraid of unless he falls on top of you. Whatever you said he probably forgot about it. He's not known for his memory skills."

"Really? You think? I sure hope he's not sore still." Sure do hope. I can't handle this anymore. Today was enough to last me a lifetime.

"Sure…you're fine. Go home and get some rest. We'll hang out this weekend, 'kay?" She smiled at me and walked off.

I sighed…that is to think I'll be alive this weekend. I grabbed my empty book bag and trotted home.

(0)

It was a cloudy day. I knew it was going to rain. Figures it would rain. This day couldn't really get much worse. The droplets came down lightly and I began to jog home. I did not want to get soaked this early in the day. However, I found a block in my path.

What the hell do these guys do? Just wait for me? Up against a picket fence is Jason Masters with his arms crossed. His muscles protruding from his tight shirt. I bit my lip…

"Well…if it isn't fag boy." There were two other guys there. Two other seniors, but none very important…and for some reason…Fitzgerald? Damn…if I couldn't hate Jason anymore there came Fitzgerald to remind me I could.

I begin walking around them. I pray to god they don't stop me. Oh please let there be a god.

"Where ya' goin', fag boy?" One boy steps in front of me. Shit…see where this is going.

Someone rips my book bag off my torso and I'm flung up against the fence. I feel like yelling for help but as soon as I open my mouth Jason covers it and says, "You yell and we'll jack you up even more, got that?"

A tear runs down my cheek as I realize that there is no way out. There's never a way out. So I close my eyes and let what happens happen.

I want to solve all the problems in the world. I want to help everyone and make the world a better place. But there are times when the world just doesn't feel like it needs savin', but punishing.

I fall to the ground. My chest hitting the hard pavement. The air is heavy and it's getting harder to breath. The rain will be coming soon. Always does at the most inconvenient times.

My side hurts. My leg hurts. My heart hurts. I cover my face. "Not the face." I whisper. Never the face. They can't look at it while they do such an act. That's why they throw me face down. They take turns kicking me from all sides. I feel some slight punches in my back. Just let it go…let it go…let myself go. I do and everything feels like a dream. All except the rain. It just pours down on my and reminds me that I can't escape this. I'm trapped in this damn place forever.

(0)

I wake up…

I'm not sure what provoked him to do such a thing. I just lied there…crying into the ground. It would listen to me…had listened to me for many years. I was drenched in cold rain now. Everything was drenched. But anyways, as I was lying there I felt a swig of air in font of my face. A shadow cast.

I looked up to see my book bag swinging back and forth in front of me. What…did they piss on it? I look up and there's some sort of figure there.

"Didn't do anything to it…promise." I feel a hand grip my arm. Gentle actually. Not forceful.

He comes into view. That damn Fitzgerald. I'm not too sure why he stuck around…or how. All I know is that he was there with me after the storm and was holding my book bag for me.

"I tried keeping it dry…that's why I threw it under a tree." He handed it over and I took it reluctantly. He had to jerk it into my hands before I realized that this was all really happening.

"Um….thanks…" I took the bag and he walked off with his hands in his pockets.

At that moment…I knew that he had not touched me except with gentle hands. That is why he hid them. Maybe he did all this to feel less guilty. But I think he always felt guilty for what he did. Always…and it'd be like the little black spot on his soul that not even the devil could wash off. Fitzgerald…damn yankee.