He watched the kids go by behind his mask of a class clown. He watches their arrogance butt against one another, insults and swaggers betraying even the mildest child as a monarch of their own world. Chubby cheeks sneer at others, allies by age against the older kids; feudal lords against one another the rest of the time. This war has gone on since ever, his first day of school being only a beginning, only a sun in the universe, only a molecule of water in the ocean. That day of fear, of nervousness, that day of tripping humiliation that would hound him to this day. If he hadn't tripped into the pile of garbage: a stinking pile of gooey substances, cardboard, mud, dead leaves thrown out after the big kid's biology class' experiments and who knows what else; it may have been different. He wouldn't be Garbage Boy, the unintentional class clown for the past five years.
He continues on his way, darting from side to side like an escaping deer, a zigzag meant to diminish the chances of capture. He's not fleeing anybody, just his name -the name of his embarrassment. He has never denied himself the chance to run; just like life never gave him a chance at not being clumsy. May his genes rot in the inferno of shame. He is.
He sees Miss Shoree, the middle-aged English teacher with a habit of wearing summer dresses with floral patterns. Today it has a sunflower pattern, rounds of petals and seeds that sprawled across the fabric. It was like looking at a flower through a bug's eyes, each picture being a reflection of a fragment of the original, multiplied by a thousand.
"You okay Brad?" She asks, her voice running over him like honey before freezing him in place, making him a prisoner in an amber cocoon.
"Just fine Missus." He answers in his best 'Garbage Boy' voice, a mindless addition of syllables with a cheerful delivery.
"Good." She smiles at him, making him nervous. Smiles directed at him weren't a good sign.
He speeds up his pace, walking backwards so she will not accuse him of running away from her while she is speaking to him. Having done that before, he would rather not repeat the experience.
He crashes into a garbage can, the one the janitor had neglected to empty that morning. The only one he left out before sneaking away for a coffee break, his scruffy appearance sulky from a lack of caffeine.
As the laughter returned, the only thing he could think of was how she didn't warn him.
And her smile.