A snip from the middle of my 4,000-word short story Any Old Apple. Yesterday, newsletter readers got the whole thing, and next month they’ll get the audio version absolutely free (for non-newsies, it’ll be 99¢. Do the right thing. Sign up for the newsletter. I’ll even send a copy of the story so you can finish reading it.)
Any Old Apple: An Excerpt
We join our hero mid-story.
His teacher pronounced his last name correctly, and Milton skated through the first half of his first day in fifth grade without major embarrassment. Last year, the ancient crone who creaked her way into the classroom every day had called him “Milton BOW drucks” no matter how many times he corrected her.
Fourth grade had been a nightmare.
Maybe, just maybe, those days were over.
Ah, but lunch. Lunch was where the bullies showed themselves. School administrators knew that one teacher could barely handle 30 students, yet they assigned exactly two teachers to the lunch room in every school he’d attended so far. Two teachers, monitoring as many as 120 students.
At an expected rate of 7% bullies (Milton was good with math and kept scrupulous records regarding bullies) that was about four bullies per teacher in addition to the more than 50 fairly normal kids.
Bullies knew the odds.
But Milton knew bullies.
And Milton had a plan.
Milton Lester Boudreaux was not big. He was not strong. He was not fast.
But he was smart. Smarter than any bully he’d met.
His fourth-grade experience had taught him that bullies didn’t want to get caught, as a general rule, and so they avoided publicity of their actions.
This year, Milton intended to provoke a battle of wits with the biggest, meanest bully he could find, outwit him, and earn a respite for, if not for the rest of his school years, at least the rest of fifth grade.
Milton was smart, but he was only fifth-grade smart.
Still, his plan might have worked if he’d stuck to it. Instead, at the crucial moment, memories of having his underwear stolen from under the stall door and thrown out of the boy’s room distracted him. Of course it was the day he’d been stuck with the ones that went through the wash with his new red sweatshirt. Of course it was that day. He still wasn’t sure how Stinky and Flex had yanked them over his shoes so quickly, but there he sat wearing only shoes and socks and his shirt until Mr. Philby the vice principal came and tossed his pants and pink underwear under the door.
You, too, would have been distracted by such thoughts.
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