He sat in the back of the bus, like every morning and every afternoon. The way to school was usually longer than the way back home. Jim checked his backpack and felt for the lunch that his grandma had packed him. She would always write a small note or draw a simple picture on the bag. It was silly, but it completely made his day. Jim would always return the bag back home. It wouldn’t be fair to throw something that meaningful away at a school cafeteria. Today, he couldn’t wait until lunch and glanced at the other side of the bag: “Shine” it said. With a winking smiley face next to the word. He smiled.
First period English with Mr. Holmes was usually a wake-up call. Mr. Holmes didn’t take any excuses, and he demanded answers. Insight. How much insight can you expect from a 10-year old? Quite a lot from this boy, as it turns out. The vocab test was still a week away and Jim made it through this lesson as well. He didn’t want it to end though. For one, because Samantha was sitting right in his field of vision and he could gaze at her all lesson long without having to make up an excuse to turn around or borrow a pencil from a neighbor. And also, lunch was a bad time. It was the best time, because of his grandma’s beam of light that he was looking forward to. Bad because the 7th graders (“the older ones”) weren’t too fond of him.
The bell shook him out of his gaze towards Samantha and made it all the more apparent that he has to make his way over to the cafeteria. He swung his backpack over his shoulder, his grey hoodie hung halfway across his back, lunch bag in hand. The crowded hallway emptied out quickly. Security was high these days and the guards made sure that there were no strays wandering the halls. Anyone who had nowhere to be had to at least have a hall pass.
Jim slowly hurried towards the cafeteria. Thanks to his grandma, he didn’t have to wait in line. Although he liked the lunch lady. She always smiled at him.
He sat down with his friend Chuck. They’ve been friends since the second grade when Chuck’s dad transferred because of work and Jim once saved his friend from a humiliating baseball incident. Sometimes, it only takes a millisecond and you know you’re going to be friends with someone for a long time.
“Hey nerd”, Jim heard that voice resonate behind him. He didn’t want to turn around. It was the same thing at least every other day, but the first time this week. He thought he could get through one week without an encounter with Tyler, the fat kid. The bully. The youngest of five kids who needed someone else to pick on.
“What can I do for you today?” Jim inquired “How about you shut up, nerd”. One would think he would get tired of bullying him. Jim tried so many strategies: Being the wimp (although that wasn’t a strategy), the back-talker, the indifferent, the funny guy. But nothing could stop a real bully. At least nothing that he could do at this point.
“What do you want today?” Jim asked him. Tyler had taken his old backpack, his favorite pen, his baseball cards and a couple other things. “Gimme that bag”, he pointed to Jim’s lunch bag. “Forget it”, he became scared. He would’ve defended that bag with his life. But to no avail. One of Tyler’s companions held Jim by the shoulders as Tyler snatched away the bag. From then on, everything went in slow motion: Tyler took a bit out of the sandwich, inspected the apple, shoved the entire bag of potato chips down his throat and tossed everything, including the bag, into the trash. Another kid walked by the trash can and emptied his tray on top of everything.
Jim could just stand by and watch.
Thanks to the lunch lady, he didn’t have to go hungry. Though he had to pay her back the next day.
On his way back home, in the back of the bus, he was exhausted. Not only was there the sheer pressure of having to do well in school and perhaps enjoying being there, being with his friends, having his first crush; but the pressure of facing a bully each and every day. And feeling so helpless.
Jim’s grandma looked at him. She knew exactly what had happened… grandmas have a way of knowing. “You know what, grandma?” — “What, love?” — “The only thing that makes me get up in the morning is knowing that I’ll always have another lunch bag from you”.
“I know, love. I know.”
Day 2 #30DayWritingChallenge. Prompt: Tell about a character who lost something important to him/her.