It’s just another fall morning on Steiger road (the Steiger family owned the largest farm in these parts, but much of it has been sold off over the years) and I’m standing at the end of our driveway.
Waiting for the bus.
It’s very peaceful at first. Dad and Bruce both left a while ago and Stacy’s bus has already come and gone. Then I hear the familiar sound of John Steiger’s car, kicking up clouds of dust and gravel as it appears from over the hill to the east. The old sedan rattles and nearly bottoms out as it hits the small bridge over the gully before climbing the hill, roaring past me and fish-tailing it up to the main road.
John punches it and burns his tires a bit as he speeds out of sight. Soon it’s quiet again. I hear a distant tractor start. The engine coughs a few times and then slowly chugs up to speed. Soon the sound becomes more distant as the machine and the farmer driving it, head off to work some field somewhere. Somewhere north of where I’m standing. I never see it but the chugging of the tractor eventually disappears and the expanse of farmland before me returns to relative silence.
It’s still quite early.
Behind me, I can hear my pigs in the barn. I’d just fed them before getting ready for school. They are my pigs. As part of a 4H project, I used my own money to buy three piglets and I am going to raise and breed them for profit.
My muscles are quite sore after a morning of hard work, but I feel almost strong now. I grew quite a lot over the last year, and (although I don’t know it yet) I am becoming ready to stand up to Bruce. Most days I just find ways to keep from having to have anything to do with that asshole but eventually, I’m going to have to… To do something.
But today I’m not thinking of Bruce at all.
I’m thinking of Gordon Trudeau and his little brother Hadley. I’m thinking of how I’d never noticed Gordon and Hadley before and wonder how long they’ve lived in King’s Park. Gordon is very different from the other King’s Park bullies. I’ve learned to avoid those back of the bus scumbags quite successfully these last few years.
Ever since Keith punched out that prick Bobby Marks, they’ve left me the hell alone. They can see that Keith and I are friends and want no part of that action. It’s far too expensive to get into it with Keith. Besides, Bobby is obviously not worth much to the older King’s Park bullies and he’d been asking for it anyway.
Gordon Trudeau however… he is a mystery.
I can tell that he isn’t part of the usual gang of King’s Park bullies but he also doesn’t sit very far away from them either. They don’t seem to pay him any attention at all, which is a form of respect from those guys. Clearly, Gordon has no fear of them. He sits where he likes and calmly scans the bus. Taking everything in.
Gordon is dark. His long straight hair and thick eyebrows (nearly a “unibrow”) is pitch black and his skin is quite dark too. Not like a black guy or latino (there are none of either in our neighborhood) but… dark.
I’m thinking about Gordon because he started talking to me a little the day before. Keith didn’t ride that day and Gordon just started talking to me in his odd way. He has a deep voice. Really deep for his age. He’s the same age as me but my voice is far from beginning to change.
Anyway, yesterday, Gordon came up to the seat just behind me and said. “Hey von Ahsen, watch this.” He then called his little brother Hadley, sitting up front. “Hadley… oh Hadley!”
Gordon’s little brother soon poked his scruffy little head out into the aisle and looked back at us. Gordon just stared at Hadley. He had a look on his face I’d never seen before. Kind of like a smile, but more of a smirk… with an intensity I would have never been able to reproduce. Hadley knew what was coming and had already begun to twist in fear. A faint whimper began to come from his mouth.
“Ugly… Ugly… Ugly…” Gordon began to chant. Almost imperceptible at first, but soon quite clear. Hadley’s face had now turned from a slight scowl to an open-mouthed grimace. His whimper becoming a howl. Like an animal in severe pain. A few of the other back of the bus bullies began to laugh but most of them paid no attention. They probably had seen it enough already.
I didn’t know what to think yesterday, and no Idea what to expect today. Is Gordon going to do it again… or what?
With a strange combination of anxiety and curiosity, I get ready to get onto the bus. The bus… oh yea, here it is. Lost in thoughts of my pending new encounter with Gordon Trudeau and his little brother Hadley, I’d hardly noticed it approaching.
Old man Werner opens the door and I get on.
So much will now of course have to be…
To be continued…