Story:Only So Far

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Only So Far
Written by Kingsley Wolfe


August 2nd, 2014

Kevin sighed, ending the call with Theodore Rockwell. He had asked Theo to call him when he had learned what exactly had caused his friend to pick a fight with a bunch of people in the street. And while based on the reactions Kevin’s words had seemed to help him, the way their discussion had veered had brought back old memories that Kevin longed to forget.

______

May 23rd, 1999.

Kevin walked slowly across the field towards his friends. A month left in Senior Kindergarten, the kids were already beginning to get excited for the summer. Walking along the edge of the field, to avoid the game of soccer that the big kids were playing, he came up to his friends, the group of them crouched down just next to the sand pit.

“Come on, Joey, eat it!”

“Ew, no, that’s gross!” The young wolf stood up quickly, turning away from the group.

Kevin looked at them curiously. “What’s gross?”

The first boy to speak, a young deer, turned and looked at Kevin. “Kev! Nobody will eat these ants!”

Kevin pushed his way into the the group of children, huddled in a circle around the anthill. There was a small stream of ants making their way from the grass into the opening at the top. Kevin looked confused. “Why would you guys eat the ants?”

The deer laughed again. “Because we dared them! But no one will do it!”

Kevin reached down, putting his paw over the top of the anthill. A few ants climbed onto his hand, and Kevin’s tongue flicked down, sweeping them all into his mouth. The kids around him yelled out in a chorus of ‘ew’ and ‘gross’. The pangolin looked around at his friends. “What, why is that gross?!”

“You just ate bugs!” A young pointer girl shrieked.

“Yeah, but I always eat ants at home.”

Joey laughed. “Ew, you eat ants!”

The other kids joined in, laughing. “Bug eater! Bug eater!”

______

October 4th, 2004

Kids can be cruel sometimes.

Ever since that day, five years previous, Kevin had been mocked for what he was. It had started out innocently enough. A kid might call him a big eater at recess, or someone might ask if his lunch was a PB&A, a peanut butter and ant sandwich. They were the comments of little kids, not knowing any better.

But Joey, Joey had never let it go. Neither had Ryese, the deer that been daring everyone in the first place. They made it their goal to mock Kevin for being an insectivore. Harmless pranks devolved into sneaking bugs into his food, or into other people’s food and blaming it on Kevin. The nicknames of childhood developed into mocking taunts and racial slurs. They were careful, though. They would never do it when any teachers were nearby, and they bullied their classmates into submission, preventing others from telling for fear of reprisal. The effects on Kevin were devastating. Where once ants had been his favourite thing to eat at home, a standard ingredient in every meal, they now were avoided at all costs. His parents grew worried, and attempted to contact the school, only to receive word that they had witnessed no incidents of bullying, and that none had been reported. And their attempts to get Kevin to talk were equally as fruitless.

Where once there had been a lively boy, full of youthful hope and vigour, there remained only a reclusive child, quite and soft-spoken, his friends held close and others kept at a distance. The only place a spark of his former self remained was on the basketball court. His few remaining friends, those that knew the true Kevin and didn’t fall into the mocking and the slander, were those from the reserve. Closest among them, Quinn, an otter a year his younger, had dared Kevin to try out for the intramural basketball team the year before and Kevin had taken to it quickly. It brought out the best in Kevin, even if only for a short time.

When the lunchtime recess rolled around on that chilly october morning, Kevin was happy. He had brought his new basketball to school, to use on the outdoor hoops. With a smile, Kevin grabbed the ball from his backpack, slipped on his outdoor shoes, and ran out of the school doors before anyone had the chance to get close to being ready. While the rest struggled with their coats, Kevin hadn’t bothered. Even in a teeshirt, the activity would keep him warm.

The sound of the basketball blocked out everything else to Kevin. The rhythmic pounding as he dribbled towards the basket, the bang as it his the backboard, and the swish as the ball fell through the hoop, the layup completed. In the moments before he grabbed the ball from under the basket, he finally heard the footsteps coming up from behind him.

“Quinn, Chris, Jonathan, took you guys long en. . . .” Kevin trailed off as he turned around. Where he had expected to see his friends, instead stood the three kids who had made his life a nightmare. Joey, Ryese, and their tagalong friend Bruce. All three were wearing blue hoodies, with the hoods down.

“Hey bug-breath. What you got there, huh? Looks like a new basketball.”

Kevin gripped his ball tight as the wolf approached him. “What do you want, Joey?”

“Oh, nothing much. Just wanted to see what the ball of scales was up to. And it looks like he’s playing with a ball, how cute.”

Kevin’s face tensed up. “Go away.” He watched over the group’s shoulders as his friends turned the corner of the school to approach the court, only to slow down when they say Joey and his gang standing there.

“Oh, Kevin, why would I do that?” Joey laughed. “What, does the bug eater not want normal people around? Is that it, or do you just want to be alone so you can go find an anthill to eat out of?”

“I just want to play basketball in peace, guys. Can’t you just leave?”

“No!” Ryese laughed until Joey silenced him with a sharp look. “Now look here, you bug eating freak. Just because you can’t stand to be around normal people who eat actual food and not disgusting filth that crawls around in the mud doesn’t mean that you can stop us from coming over here. This court is just as much ours as it is yours.”

Kevin glared at them. “You’ve never even used this court before. And if you wanted to play so bad, where’s your ball!?”

Joey game a nod to Bruce, who ducked forward and ripped the ball from Kevin’s grasp. The hare handed the ball to Joey, who tossed it back and forth in his hands. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, my ball is right here.”

“Give that back, Joey! That’s new and it’s mine!” Kevin saw his friends coming closer now, looks of anger on their faces.

“Give what back? Oh, you mean this ball, the one that’s mine?” The wolf laughed, holding the ball in one hand and he balled his other fist, extending his middle finger. With a grin, he pushed the sharp claw into the basketball, puncturing it. The ball deflated quickly before he tossed it back to the pangolin with a look of anguish on his face. “There, you can have it. Not much use to me now anyways!”

Kevin’s body was shaking, a mixture and anger and fighting back tears. “Why . . . Why would you do that? It took me two months to afford that ball!”

Joey just laughed, stepping close to the pangolin. “Because, Kevin, you are a freak. A no good, bug eating freak. It’s bad enough we have to smell your breath here at school, but when you or your parents are always on the reserve, taking up our space and our land, you piss me off. You and your family of scaled freaks need to get out.”

“Hey, Joey!” Quinn called from behind the group. Joey simply nodded, and his two friends went to go hold back Kevin’s friends.

“I hate you.” Kevin muttered under his breath.

Joey chuckled. “What was that? Did bug breath have something to say to me?”

“I said I hate you!”

“Well, isn’t that cute! The bug eater thinks he had a backbone under those freakish scales!” Joey took another step closer to Kevin, not only a foot away from the much shorter pangolin. “Well guess what, freak. That doesn’t matter. One of these days, the elders will wise up and stop you and your family from coming to the reserve. We don’t need no bug eaters on our lands. Now get lost you fucking hardback, ant-munching, scaled freak!”

Somewhere, deep down inside Kevin, something snapped. He had heard each and every single one of those insults, and worse, hundreds of times before, but this time something broke. Kevin’s fist clenched, and he yelled as he swung at Joey’s face. “SHUT UP!”

Kevin felt the blow reverberate up his arm as his fist struck the wolf directly in the cheek, turning the wolf’s head to Kevin’s left. His arm kept moving as the wolf fell back, landing on his back on the cement. Everything fell silent for a moment before the wolf began to scream. The pangolin looked down at his bully and paused, horrified. Where once there had been just grey and white fur, there was now a large patch of red growing, two large grooves carved into the wolf’s cheek. Blood was seeping out of the wounds, and Kevin looked down at his arm. Not far past his wrist, on the top of his forearm, two of his scales were lined with blood.

Unlike the fight before it, Joey’s shrieking brought the attention of the teachers, who only saw a kid on the ground with blood coming from his face and another, standing in front of the injured student with blood across his arm.

Without even a chance to defend himself, Kevin was rushed inside the building and sat in a room by himself. Two hours later, his mother finally arrived, a look of horror and disgust on her face. She wouldn’t even listen when Kevin tried to tell her what had happened, escorting him by his ear out of the room and into their car.

________

October 11th, 2004

Kevin sat nervously in the principal’s office, his mother on the seat next to him, her arm wrapped around his shoulders. The principal stood resolutely behind his desk, his face stern. “Mrs. Malka, I’m sure you understand how serious the situation is. Joey Lahren is still recovering from the stitches that your son’s assault forced him to get. That’s not something that we can take lightly. Mr. And Mrs. Lahren have already complained directly to the school board, and the school board is pressuring me to expel your son.”

“Now listen here! Kevin told me what happened, and while I can’t condone him fighting, this entire situation is not his fault!”

The large eagle sat down in his chair, placing his elbows on the desk. “Yes, these incidents of speciest bullying that you have been mentioning for the last week. The ones you say have been going on for years. I asked the students in Kevin’s class, and none of them said a single think to me about such incidents.”

“That’s because they’re scared!” Margaret yelled. “They fear that if they talk they’ll just get bullied instead!”

“That’s ridiculous, Mrs. Malka! I took them out privately, talked to them all without anyone else around. If they were scared of reprisal, they would have talked when we were alone. I think you’re just going to have to get used to the fact that it is your son, not Mr. Lahren, that is the bully here. And we won’t tolerate that kind of behaviour at this school.”

A loud knock came from the door, which opened to reveal the face of a young dalmation. “Mr. Kenneth, there are some people here for you.”

The eagle cursed under his breath. “I’m busy at the moment, Stephanie, they will have to come back later.”

“But, sir, I don’t think they’re going to take no fo . . .” The secretary was cut off as three children pushed past her and into the office. Kevin smiled. “Quinn, Chris, Jonathon! What are you guys doing here?”

The eagle rose from his seat. “You students need to get back to class right now!”

Quinn shook his head. “No, we won’t, Mr. Kenneth. Not without Kevin.”

“Well, I’m sorry, kids, but Mr. Malka won’t be joining you in class again. The school board is pushing me to expel him, and I have no choice but to do so. He has claims of speciest bullying but absolutely no proof. No teachers have seen such bullying and no students have come forward.”

“That’s what we’re here to do, to let you know that Kevin only punched Joey in self defence. Joey was calling Kevin a lot of really mean things, like normal, and he popped Kevin’s basketball, and. . .”

“Kevin! I thought you said you lost that ball!”

“That’s enough, students.” Mr. Kenneth did his best approximation of a growl. “You tell a convincing story, but I can’t exactly believe the words of a few kids, ones that are close friends of Kevin. For all I know you’re making this up to save your friend.”

Chris walked forward and put a few sheets of paper on the desk. “Those are some statements from kids in Kevin’s class and younger, talking about what they did to Kevin, as well as to themselves.”

Mr. Kenneth picked up the papers, looking at them carefully. He sighed, taking off his reading glasses and setting his hands on the desk. “Look. I’m going to have to let the school board know about this, but this does change some things. Still, we can’t be lenient on violence. Kevin’s still going to receive a three week suspension, starting today.”

“But sir! Basketball season starts next week! The team needs Kevin!”

“Well then, Kevin will just have to tryout when he gets back.”

“But. . . .”

Kevin looked back at his friends. “It’s fine, guys. Just let it go.” He looked down between his legs. “I did still hit Joey, I shouldn’t have done that. I deserve the punishment.”

“But Kev! That was in self defence.”

“No, it wasn’t. He wasn’t harming me, he was only talking at me. I’m the one who hit him.”

“But . . .”

“Enough!” Mr. Kenneth yelled. “You three students, back to class, now!” Kevin’s friends turned to leave the office. “Now, Mrs. Malka. Take Kevin home, and bring him back in three weeks. I’ll have someone send homework by your house for him.”

Kevin stood and followed his mother out of the office to their car in the parking lot. Sitting in the front seat, Kevin sighed, looking out his window. He nearly jumped when he felt his mom hugging him. “Mum . . . What are you doing?”

“Kevin, I may not approve of you hitting him,” She smiled, letting Kevin go and turning on the car, “but I’m proud of you for defending yourself.”

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