Friday, February 05, 2010


The school yard fell silent as the two boys stood toe-to-toe at the center of the growing crowd.  The bigger of the boys, whom everyone called Buster, kept his hostile brown-eyed stare pointed at his opponent. His beefy arms dangled loosely at his sides, but his fists were clenched and ready.

Teddy was new to the school. Earlier, while he ate lunch at a table by himself, Buster and four other boys approached and pushed his tray to the floor.

“You think you be so smart, laughing cuz I got the wrong answer in class?” Buster asked.

He looked around at the nearby students, who stopped chewing in order to hear what was happening. “Let's see him laugh when I break his face outside.”

He turned to Teddy and sneered. No one said a word until Buster and his cronies left the room.

Now, all the spectators waited in excited chatter for it to begin. When Buster spat on the ground, a signal that he was ready, the crowd stepped back to give him room. Teddy started to tell this bully he did not want to fight, but had hardly spoken when Buster struck and hit him in the head.

Fight! Fight!" came from those looking on, and this was taken up on all sides.

Though a cut in his temple was bleeding into his right eye, Teddy ducked the next blow and ran at Buster. They tumbled to the ground. Teddy, being leaner and quicker, rolled away and stood. He  kicked at Buster's ankles and shins, but fell over when he lost his balance.

"Boys! boys! Stop this now!” It was the school principal. He forced his way through the crowd to where Buster and Teddy lay, still pummeling each other, and, reaching down, caught each by the collar and dragged him to his feet.

As they were led away to the front door of the school, Teddy thought about his grandmother getting the phone call. He lived with her now, after his mother had left him on her doorstep a week ago with a small suitcase and run off with another deadbeat boyfriend who promised her everything but stability.

His grandmother sighed when she answered his knock that day but knew Teddy could not live alone and had no other place to go. “Don't want trouble with you, hear?” she warned after explaining the rules of the house. He promised.

This is trouble, he thought as he and Buster reached their fourth grade classroom to collect their books while the principal spoke to their teacher.

Later, as he sat waiting in the hallway for his grandmother to come and sign him out of school, Teddy remembered his mother once told him, “Baby, dreams don't cost nuthin' but the time it takes to have 'em.”  

So he will dream of a transformed life ahead. But, the world he inhabits will not make it easy.

He feared he will always have to fight to make his way.


I have Clifford Fryman to thank for the first sentence. I found it at #storystarters, his brainchild, a place to go if writers need a prompt to “kick start their creativity when their muse is a no show.” You can find him at Twitter here.


  1. Very nice, Marisa. And sadly true for a lot of kids trying to over come their environment. I will hold out high hopes for Teddy, even if just in storyland.

  2. this brought me back to 6th have the feel perfect!

  3. 7th grade for me, only it was always the frickin bus. Not the schoolyard. Much tighter quarters. *sigh*

    nice yarn. I feel bad for Teddy.

    Karen :0)

  4. "promising her everything but stability" - ah, quite.
    Poor little chap.

    I hope his grandmother lightens up a little.

    Buster's "signature" spitting was a very good touch, I thought

  5. Fantastic! I can't wait to read more about his experiences. You have the makings of a great character -- please keep him going!

  6. Marisa, I enjoyed your story. Thank you for the link to Story Starters (I need those a lot) and thank you for visiting my blog. I love the "About Me" section on your sounds so familiar! Think of all the amazing things there are to see and do in that rabbit hole. And yes, it's up to us to open our eyes to them!

  7. I think this is a story to which many people can relate, including this geeky nerd-girl. It is so familiar it actually made me uncomfortable, which is a good thing in story terms.

    Man, I hated the bus. I'm with Karen on that one. I'm still pissed off over my new Christmas hat Steve Murdoch stole off my head along with a big handful of hair. Not that I dwell on things, LOL!

    Nicely captured, Marisa, and I would really like to see Teddy come back.

  8. Such a sad, true story for many kids. You told it deftly and with feeling, taking the reader back to trouble in their own childhood. Well done!

  9. Anonymous10:52 AM

    Excellent language as usual. Sad story that shows that no matter how good intentions you have, the world won't change around you.

  10. You tapped into readers emotions and that's what all good writers do. You absolutely captured the scene. Wonderful work.

  11. Anonymous11:06 AM

    "Ache" is right! This story is true of so many kids who are alone in the world. Fourth grade! Just 9 years old, maybe 10 ... he's still a baby. My heart breaks for kids like this, and you did a wonderful job of bringing the detail to life. ~ Olivia

  12. A nice romp in memory lane. Agree with the others, good capture of schoolyard trouble.

  13. Good job, but such a sad yet true tale.

  14. A very sad, well-told tale, albeit too true for many kids. Kudos on getting it right!

  15. Live does feel that way at times, that it is a fight and a struggle. Very real and what a lot of students, young adults, face.

  16. Yeah-Middle grade fiction! This is a great concept and could be a larger work. Your fight scene was perfect and your portrayal of Teddy broke my heart. Nice work.

  17. Brings back school days to me in fully technicolour - you've got the language of the school yard well. Makes me glad I was never picked on for a fight at school.

  18. Nice story, Marisa - Poor young Teddy. Seems like he will have nobody to rely on but himself.

  19. Very well-told story Marisa. You captured this scene perfectly. I do hope Teddy is able to find that place of peace he so needs. I'm sure you know how close to my heart this subject is. Thank you for this.

  20. The words here roll well off the tongue (I actually read your story aloud because I have the luxury of being home today. :) While I was reading, images from middle school kept flashing through my mind. The depiction of the fight is dead on, at least how they occurred at my school--including the probability that this will be "trouble" for Teddy (they usually punished both kids at my school-or that was the perception). I like Teddy's resolve and I hope he can hold onto it in the years ahead.

  21. I remember those school yard fights, except, I always had a mom and dad to go home to. I wish all kids had that.

  22. I was usually sticking up for my little sister. Wonder if there's anyone who hasn't been on one end or the other while in grade school.

    Straight From Hel

  23. Aw, so sad, and so true for a lot of kids.

    I'll say it again, no matter what characters you choose, you capture their world so well with what they say and how they act.

    Love your stuff, and love Teddy, cute name to give him - I think of a Teddy bear.

  24. Super story, Marisa. You captured middle school bullying perfectly. I'm worrying about the new kid on the block. Peace, Linda

  25. Anonymous4:34 PM

    I never picked a fight with anyone I wasn't going to get my ass whupped by. How else are we supposed to learn? I used to love fighting at school but never saw all that much bullying. Honestly, where I was, it wasn't tolerated.

    Clifford Fryman rocks. I love his tweets. Smart man.

    Great story, so layered. The two boys get in a fight but the victim has more to lose. Just great!

  26. All of your children are wise, aren't they? Yes, he'll have to fight all his life, but hopefully he'll learn how to temper the struggles with dreams of better things. Beautiful work.

  27. You definitely capture the flavor of school age bullying. Well written. Well done!

  28. Anonymous6:49 PM

    Oh. Sorry, had to come back. Bullying? I despair a little about these bullying comments. I was as odd a kid as you're going to meet but I didn't get bullied.


    If someone threw a punch at me, I threw one straight back.

    If two kids square off and one of them answers a thrown punch... it's not bullying. It's a fight. You can excise it from the past, the present and the future, but it'll still happen.

    Holy cow. Leave us our fights.

  29. You describe the confrontation very well, but I don't think someone that young would be that philosophical about it. That usually comes with more age and experience.

  30. Anonymous1:33 AM

    Interesting story - great language, well written.
    Interesting thoughts from Anton

  31. Oh, I want to hug him! So hard being that age, with no one to tell you how great you are. :-( Wonderfully written.

  32. Lovely representation of a difficult time for kids. Liked the way Teddy has come to terms with his future in the story...

  33. Great story Marisa. Like Anton I didn't see this as bullying either - I saw the inevitability of fighting, of defending things even though it doesn't always make sense to do so. It's outside of logic and I like that - makes it human. Thought provoking piece.

  34. Interesting character. I'd be interested t see something from the p.o.v. of the grandmother. Sounds like her relationship with her daughter would also be worth a look at.

  35. Good capture of schooltime troubles. I was glad he held his own til the fight got broken up. I hope his grandmother isn't too mad. Sounds like he's a wise kid, not a wise-ass, so he might just be okay in life.

  36. Very nice. Poor fellow. I wonder if he'll grow up to be peace maker or have a chip on his shoulder?

    I too thought Buster spitting before the fight was a good character setting moment.

  37. I already commented on your story, and it's almost time for another one, so I hope you see this. I have an award for you at my blog.

  38. Poor kid, although if he didn't want to fight, why did he show up? Peer pressure over grandma pressure, I guess. You nailed the atmosphere, and I hope he holds on to his good dreams.


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