“You stinking moron!” Moses screamed.

“Fatso, can’t you see you’re blocking the way? You’re fat.” Kaden replied quietly.

“Get out of here, do you hear me? Get out or−”

“Or what?” Kaden smiled, “or what? What can you do? Look at you. By the time you move that fat belly of yours, you would have already had your butt kicked.”

Moses exploded. His face blew up and looked like a giant tomato. He started to drool. He used to drool whenever he got really mad and couldn’t speak. It was as if spit was replacing his words.

“Hey ugly, wipe that spit. You’re going to give the entire classroom your germs. My mom told me to stay away from you.”

“You…” Moses was approaching Kaden. I jumped out of my chair and stood between them. I grabbed Moses and sat him down. “Enough, what are you getting so upset about? Can’t you see he’s trying to annoy you?” I told him quietly. I turned towards Kaden “Let him go. Why are you picking on him? You have room to pass.”

“Why are you b-b-butting in?” Kaden started stuttering. He would stutter when he was nervous. His parents sent him to speech therapy and it didn’t happen much anymore. But this time I really upset him. “Fatso, after you clean the spit off your face, come to the sand mound near the b-b-basketball court. Unless you are a coward. We’ll see if you’re a man there, not here with geeks p-p-protecting you.” I looked at Moses. I gestured with my finger for him to say no. But the whole classroom was looking at him as well. If he didn’t answer, Kaden would have won. He has to say yes. Maybe he is better off losing the fight rather than not agreeing to fight at all. Hunter, the ‘class king’ and a good friend of Kaden, approached Moses. Moses looked down at the desk and muttered, “after class, in the sands by the basketball court, you s-s-stuttering idiot.” He imitated Kaden stuttering. Kaden jumped at him but Hunter stopped him and whispered in his ear, “after class, don’t worry, the fat guy will get it.”

The teacher walked in. Moses sat next to me. Up until a month ago he used to sit by himself, but the teacher had asked students to volunteer to sit next to him. No one would do it. I used to help Moses with his math homework and his mother had a talk with me.

“I want you to sit next to Moses. He sits alone and I think it bothers him,” she said. “Moses’ mom,” I was embarrassed, “I sit next to Ron and he’s my best friend. If I move next to Moses, Ron won’t be my friend any more. Besides, Iris already sat next to him for a while but she stopped because no one in class would speak to her and also, she said his spit got all over her when he got mad.” “I don’t know what happened with Iris,” his mom wasn’t as nice anymore, “but I’m sure that if Ron is a good friend of yours, then he would appreciate you moving to sit next to Moses. About the spit, I think that’s a made up story and if a little drool comes out when he gets annoyed, well, that can’t kill anyone.”

“I don’t know,” I wanted to go home, “my mom told me that—”

“I already spoke to your mom and she said its OK.”

Moses was sitting next to us the whole time and didn’t say a word. He looked me in the eye and I think he was crying. I wanted to say “no” but couldn’t. So I said “ok” in kind of a sad way. I’ll tell Ron that Moses’ mom made me sit next to him and that after he’ll get his spit all over me, I’ll come back to sit with him. Moses’ mom smiled and gave me a candy.

So now we’ve been sitting together for a month. At first Ron didn’t talk to me but because I’m a good student and he wanted to copy off me, we started talking again and then became best friends again. Hunter and Kaden were not talking to me. I told the teacher that kids were not talking to me because I was sitting next to Moses and she said “If students in this class want to behave like children with no manners and education, that’s their business, you don’t need to take it personally. Well done for helping Moses, I’m sure your parents will know about it in the next parent-teacher meeting.”

Moses wiped the spit off with his hand. I didn’t look at him. If he’s going to fight Kaden, that’s his business. If I help him, that’ll be the end of me in this classroom. Ron will never talk to me again. I took a piece of paper out of my notebook and wrote ‘tell the teacher you are not feeling so good and then run home.’ Moses read it and said quietly “butt out, leave me alone.” Fine, he can do whatever he wants. Maybe if it was me, I’d also fight Kaden. But I knew how Kaden felt. Moses was so fat, that sometimes it looked like maybe he was doing it on purpose, just to irritate. I was also annoyed when he was clinging to me in class. Once, I told his mom not to give him so much candy, but she said it wasn’t candy, it was his ‘build’. I didn’t get it, but it sounded like a grownup excuse.

After class, I’ll hurry to Ron’s house to play on his computer. It was quiet during class. The teacher asked if something had happened but no one said anything. Everybody was waiting for the bell. Except for Moses. I knew he was scared. His hand was shaking when he wrote. I felt sorry for him, but what could I do? Wasn’t it enough that I was made to sit next to him, now I have to get into trouble because of him?

Bell. Everybody was packing their bags in a hurry. Hunter called “everyone to the sands!” The teacher asked “what’s happening in the sands?” and Hunter said “we’re playing soccer.” Moses rose slowly. Only I could stop him, but I didn’t know how. I told him “want to come to Ron’s house and play on the computer?” but he pretended not to hear. Anyhow, I’m not sure Ron would have agreed.

Ron walked past us. “Are you coming to the sands?” he asked. “Aren’t we going to play on the computer?” I said. He pulled me and said, “come on, let’s go see the fatso getting beat up”. I pulled my arm back, “let go, I’m going home”. Ron looked at me shocked, “I thought you said you weren’t his friend.” “I’m not,” I answered quickly. “So why aren’t you coming?” he asked. “I don’t like seeing fights,” I said. Ron turned around in anger and left.

Beth, the cutest girl in class that I’ve wanted to ask to be my girlfriend for the past two years, but was always too shy, stopped next to me. “Do you want to stand next to me at the fight?” “Are you going?” I asked. “Of course I’m going. Didn’t you hear Hunter?” “Yes,” I replied, “but do you like watching boys fight?” “Yes,” she answered, “besides, it’s not just boys”- she looked over at Moses with disgust “its fatso, he deserves it.” “Save me a spot next to you,” I said and she kept going.

I was left alone with Moses. I would call his mom, but that would be more humiliating than getting beat up. I didn’t know what to say. Moses put his backpack on. “Don’t go,” I said quietly. “Why? Do you think I’m scared?” he asked. “No, but why would you? Kaden is an idiot. Besides, he’s got Hunter with him and almost the entire class, so it’s not fair. “Listen,” he has already made up his mind, “I’m going. Want to help me?” “How?” I asked worryingly. “Watch over my bag. Don’t let anyone take it.” I took his bag. I was going to get into trouble because of him after all.

It was raining heavily outside. The sands near the basketball court had turned into mud. It was late and it was getting dark. Apart from the fight area, the whole school was empty. The entire class stood in a circle, with Kaden in the middle. Moses and I came closer. I started thinking about how I’m going to explain the whole thing with the bag. I remembered a picture I saw in the encyclopaedia of an armor-bearer. I felt a bit like that. Moses is the warrior and I’m his armor-bearer. The circle opened to let Moses in and closed right behind him. Beth called, “come here, I saved you a spot”. I smiled and stood next to her. Ron, who stood across from me, was not looking at me. He’ll get over it. Hunter stood in the center, next to Kaden. “When I say go, we start. Anything goes and—” Moses jumped at Kaden. Kaden, who was not prepared, fell on his back with Moses on top of him. Hunter kicked Moses in the stomach and threw him off of Kaden. He stuck his face in Moses’ face and said quietly, “now we start.”

As I thought, it wasn’t an even fight. Moses was very slow. Kaden was ecstatic. He was laughing and smiling and didn’t stutter at all. Every time he kicked Moses he said “so, fatso, was it worth eating like that?” He did his best to hit him and move back each time. Moses tried to grab him, but every time he reached for him, Kaden was already too far. Hunter pushed Moses from behind and he fell on his belly. Kaden jumped on top of him and pushed his face in the mud. One time. And another. And another. The whole class was delighted. They were chanting “Kaden! Kaden! Kaden!” people in the street were stopping by the fence to see what’s happening but the circle was tight and hid what was going on. Beth, standing next to me, was overjoyed. She noticed that I wasn’t calling Kaden’s name like everyone else and asked, “what’s going on? Can’t you see that Kaden is winning?” Yes, I can see. I think that if I was chanting with everyone, I could have kissed her now, for the first time.

Kaden stood up and Moses did too, his face covered with mud. He looked like King Kong on the high-rise with all those planes attacking him. Kaden and Hunter surrounded him and started playing ping-pong with him. Hunter pushing him towards Kaden and Kaden pushing him right back. Moses wasn’t really a child anymore; he was a lump of fat. A little bit like a misshaped soccer ball. With every push, the entire class yelled “Ole!” just like at a soccer game, when the winning team passes the ball around in the last minute of the game. Kaden pushed Moses towards the other kids in the circle. Now the whole class was part of the game. Each side passing him over to the other side. Hunter and Kaden joined the circle. Now it was Moses against the world. He ended up in front of Beth. She looked at me so I would help her push him, but I pretended not to notice. She screamed “get off me, fatso! Your getting mud all over me!” and pushed him off with the help of her friend. I have to leave. It’s all wrong. Moses, Beth, Ron, Hunter, Kaden. I end up being the most messed up. Ron pushed Moses towards me, on purpose. Now he was in my hands. The whole class was looking. Beth was looking. Ron was looking. What do I do? I started hearing voices “come on, what’s up with him?” Moses’ eyes met mine. I have to take him home. His spit was blending with the rain and the mud on his face. He said quietly “help me”. The circle started closing in. They could easily take him back, but they were testing me now. Beth. Ron. Kaden. Hunter. If I let them down, I’m finished in this class. My only friend will be fat Moses, and even that is not certain. I drew Moses closer and whispered in his ear “sorry”. I pushed him back to the circle. Beth kissed me on the cheek. Ron was smiling at me from the other side. Even Hunter was looking at me.

It’s dark. The rain is still coming down. Moses fell into the mud and they couldn’t get him up so they all went home. I had his bag. I am trying to pick him up, “let’s go home, Moses”. He takes the bag back, but is not getting up. “Come on Moses, your mom is waiting” I can’t look him in the eye. I try picking him up again but he won’t let me. “Are you coming or not?” I say for the last time. “Looser,” he mutters. I turn around and start going home. Just before I walk out the gate, I turn around. Moses is still sitting in the mud. I call “Moses!” but I choke. It turns into a whimper “I’m sorry, Moses.”

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