I kicked Ben Chester in the head. He rolled over and began to cry. Not loudly, hed given up now, he was only trying to make himself small. Not even audibly but I could tell he was crying. Get up mate, youre so weak. Does your Mum still change your diapers? Oh sorry, I forgot. She left you because she doesnt have time to care for weak kids like you. I didnt hate Ben Chester but I didnt like him either.
He was this short, ever-present kid who smiled a lot and talked to everybody. He wasnt rude, he was just different because he wasnt afraid to be himself. The popular kids like Marcus Frusciante hated that and they hated Ben although hed never hurt them. He wouldnt have ever hurt me either but Id rather be Markus friend than Bens.
Mr Slovak, would you care to wake up? Thank you.
Mr Kiedis voice oozed with sarcasm like ink from a squid as he gave me a look of burning nonchalance after I picked my head up off the desk. Nice one Brutus, Lucas Williams elbowed me in the ribs with a grin. I hadnt really been asleep but listening in class was for nerds; people like Ben Chester who I for some reason couldnt stop thinking about. Life is like a beach, the honied and broken voice of Mr Kiedis struggled on You can live fast, run along the beach and make lots of footprints, I rolled my eyes.
What a crazy old fart. You can live slow, walk along the beach and make less footprints, he was really on a tangent now You can leave the beach and still you leave footprints.
He lowered his voice and stared for a second at every one of us, What I want you all to understand is that everything you do has an impact. Mr Kiedis raised his eyes to Markus Frusciante at the back of the classroom, who still smelt like pot from before school. Everything you say, everything you do, everything you dont do. It all leaves footprints. Youve all got eighty to a hundred years to do the best you can and if you get to my age and youre, how can I say? Pleasuring others, there was a ripple of giggles around the room myself included. This fossil wouldnt have known his peas from his carrots. Who does a sixty-year-old man whos done nothing but teach Health and bore people to death his whole life think he is telling us what to do? The only thing Kiedis was equipped to teach anyone was how to hate their life.
The old man waited for the giggles to die down and began again When youre out there pleasuring others because youre not getting enough money from Centrelink to feed your kids and buy drugs, having done nothing with your life youre gonna feel like a real screwup and youre gonna be wishing you could have these years back and as much as the lot of you dislike me I dont want that for any of you.
A wave of relief washed across the room as the school bell sounded and we all began to pour outside. Markus Frusciante was barely out the door before a lighter was at his lips, Davis Cornell had his hand down Marie Cobains skirt and Lucas Williams was reaching for his flask. Clearly everyone had already adopted the conservative lifestyle that Mr Kiedis had so fervently outlined. Ben Chester ran past with his younger sister. He had to find another two before hed run to try to catch the early bus. Markus swore at him at glanced at me as if expecting something. Youve got no friends, you pathetic sook. Ben kept running but his sister turned around and stopped. Leave my brother alone, she said with defiance Cant you see youre hurting him?
Markus and I laughed. How pitiful this was. Now Ben stopped and turned. Come on Monroe, lets just walk away. Dont go teaching her that Ben, just cause youre a pussy doesnt mean she has to be? What is this mate? An eight-year-old girl has fit more fight into once sentence than you have into your entire life. Youre so weak mate no wonder your Mum left you. Monroe gasped and started to cry which was too much for Ben. He charged at me with his fists raised, I could see the anger in his eyes. But I was stronger than he was, I knocked him over and punched him in the gut once before I walked away. I caught the eye of Markus who gave me a nod. That was all the approval I needed to justify what Id done.
When I got home I did the work that I hadnt done in class and texted my friends. Despite what you might think based on how I treated Ben, I was a good person. I always did my work and I was good to all my mates; which included most of the grade minus Ben Chester. Most people liked me and I liked most people and that was the way I liked things to be. After completing my schoolwork and eating dinner I went to bed without a second thought. I knew something was wrong when I walked in the school gates the next day. It wasnt because the schoolyard was deathly quiet as I entered.
It wasnt because Mike Chester and his sisters hadnt been on the bus and it wasnt even because the principal was at the gate waiting for me. Bruce Slovak. My office. Now. Miss Bakers voice was terrifyingly monotonous. She looked at me in disgust and I followed her back to her office. Along the way I saw Markus Frusciante, who shook his head and wouldnt look me in the eye. Baker sat me down in her office and threw me her phone. It was unlocked and an article was open with a headline that made my heart stop.
Fifteen-Year-Old Michael Chester Latest Victim to Suicide. I dropped the phone and it hit the floor with a THWACK. The first thing I felt was disbelief. This couldnt have happened; I didnt mean any of what I said to Mike. Hed been such a good, clean guy and now he was gone. Ive got nothing to say to you Bruce, Miss Baker kept that same monotonous voice Ill leave you for a minute to reflect on everything that you did. She left the room and closed the door.
I fell to floor and cried. I was nearly too ashamed to open my eyes but I picked up the phone. I dont know why I did it but I had to know the details. Hung himself in the bathroom Found by his youngest sister whod come in to brush her teeth Left a note that only said Im sorry. This was my fault. Id pushed him to this and for what? Approval from a deadbeat dropkick not smart enough to tie his own shoelaces. This was stupid and horrible and wrong in every way. Mr Kiedis had been right. I realised, more with sadness than surprise that I had turned into the wrong sort of person.