Soon the bus stops a couple blocks from Theodore Roosevelt High School. Brayden exits the bus with the passengers giving him the same awe-inspiring looks they did after witnessing his marathon bus chase earlier. The doors close and the bus drives off. The little girl waves to Brayden wearing a bright grin. Brayden waves back. Once the bus is gone, he crosses the street and heads on to school. When he arrives at the front gate, he meets up with Dan. “Dude, what happened? How come you didn’t call me last night?” he asked.
“Oh damn, I’m sorry man. I got caught up talking with my mom and it got a little too late,” Brayden said, shying away from the truth.
“Enough said,” Dan said. Then he looked at Brayden awkwardly and said, “Are you ok, pal?”
“Yeah, why?” Brayden said as they continued walking towards the front door.
“I don’t know. You just don’t look right or somethin’. Like somethin’s botherin’ ya,” Dan said concerning.
“Nah, I’m ok. I just stayed up a little too late, that’s all,” Brayden said reassuring his friend.
“Well, as long as you’re ok, man,” said Dan, then he sees Derrick, Mark, and Rupert walking towards them, “Uh oh, jerk alert.”
Derrick Johnson was the hot shot jock at Roosevelt High and self-proclaimed bad-ass of wrestling. If that wasn’t bad enough his father and Brayden’s father were both on the same storm chasing team until Derrick’s father left and found some corporate sponsors to further his research separately. The corporate sponsors cut Derrick’s father loose when he failed to produce results. Derrick learned that Brayden’s father has succeeded where his father failed in producing a more sophisticated tornado warning system. Since then he has held resentment towards Brayden and his father. “Hey loser,” Derrick said as he stepped in Brayden’s way, “did you go out and play in the rain last night?”
“Or did you forget your hat and galoshes?” Derrick’s friend Mark added and they all laughed, including Derrick’s other crony Rupert. Mark and Rupert were also on the wrestling team and they hung around Derrick because of his popularity status and they think he is a cool guy. Plus, he’s team captain.
Brayden exasperates a sigh and says, “Derrick, seriously don’t you having anything better to do? Like flex your muscles for the ditzy cheerleaders or, more accurately, yourself.”
“Not really. Besides this is more fun,” said Derrick with smart-alecky grin.
“Not today fellas. Not today,” Brayden said ignoring their remarks as he and Dan walked past them. As he and Brayden entered the building, Dan turns around and flips Derrick his middle finger.
“Not today, huh. We’ll see about that,” Derrick said snidely, “Come on.” Then the trio followed Brayden and Dan into school.
“What a butthead,” Dan said as they walked to Brayden’s class.
“Ah, don’t worry about him. Ever since he became captain of the wrestling team he thinks he rules the school,” Brayden said.
“Well here we are; another day of our own personal hell,” Dan said when they arrived at Brayden’s first class, “Are you sure you’re ok?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Brayden reassured Dan.
“Alright, see ya later.”
They touch fists and Dan continues onward to his class and Brayden enters his class and sits down. Throughout the entire morning, the events of last night kept replaying in Brayden’s mind associated with the same questions he keeps asking himself. This distracted him so much that he didn’t even notice that the school day was half over and it was already time for lunch. Brayden leaves his classroom and heads towards his locker. He meets up with Dan while walking to his locker. “Hey, what’s up?” Dan said.
“Nothin’ much. Dan, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
“Um, did you ever have something happen to you and there’s no explanation for it at all but no matter how much you look for answers you simply can’t find them? But at the same time, you can’t stop thinking about it either?”
“Ok, dude you’re taking that psychology class just a bit too seriously,” Dan said plainly clearly not understanding Brayden’s question.
“I’m serious,” Brayden said as they arrived at his locker.
“Well in that case then I don’t know,” Dan said, “Look, I know somethin’s bothering you and I may not have the answers but I’m here if you need someone talk to.”
“Thanks dude, you really are a true friend,” Brayden said appreciatively.
“It’s what I’m here for,” Dan said cheerily. Brayden was about to do the combination to his locker when Derrick and company walked up to them.
“Well what do we have here? Why if ain’t two of the biggest losers on the planet,” Derrick said with a cocky attitude.
Brayden opens his locker, takes out his books and closes it back. “Listen, why don’t you just back off Derrick, and take these two numb nuts with you,” Dan said sternly.
“Oh yeah, and what are you going to do about it, Danny-boy,” Derrick said, “Why don’t you just piss off while me and Brayden talk.”
“If you don’t leave him alone, that’s exactly what I’ll be,” Dan shot back.
“Dan, it’s ok,” Brayden says. Dan moves behind his friend while still staring at Derrick and Brayden step towards him. “You know Derrick, on any other day I would really like to play with you, but not today. So why don’t you go find someone else to play with…like these two idiots.” Brayden said mockingly, “Besides, maybe you can show them some of those wrestling moves that got your ass whooped last week.” Then he walks around Derrick and his friends and heads down the hallway that’s behind them, followed by Dan who was snickering at them.
Infuriated Derrick trots down the hall after them. “Hey jack-ass!” he calls to Brayden.
Brayden stops walking and says sternly, “I’m not in the mood Derrick, ok. I’ve had a rough night, all right. So just leave me alone.” They start to walk away again.
“Rough night? Heh, Heh, you wanna talk about a rough night. Now what your old man had, that was a rough night.” Derrick said. The remark made Brayden stop suddenly.
“Oh, you bastard,” Dan said as he stopped walking as well, “You really are an ass, aren’t you?”
“Aw, looks like I struck a nerve. We don’t wanna talk about dear old daddy, now do we?” Derrick said snidely as he strolled towards Brayden in an arrogant manner.
“Derrick, don’t…” Brayden said firmly.
“Oh, and why not Brayden? My friends only want to know what happened, that’s all. They’re just curious, right guys?” Derrick arrogantly said.
“Yeah, we’re just curious. So tell us what happened to his old man, Derrick.” Rupert said snidely.
“Why don’t you just leave him the hell alone, Derrick?” Dan snapped.
“Why should I? Without his old man, he pretty much is alone,” said Derrick.
“That’s it. I’m gonna kick your ass!” Dan said. Then he takes a swing a Derrick but he blocks it and punches Dan in the chest hard. Dan falls to the ground clenching his chest coughing and gasping for air.
“Next time you throw a punch, make sure it’s a good one.” Derrick said conceitedly.
“So Derrick, you gonna tell us about Brayden’s dad or what?” Rupert asked snidely.
“Oh right, I almost forgot. Well, from what I get from my old man, Brayden’s dad had become obsessed with chasing tornadoes. First it started out with photographing them from a safe distance, but that wasn’t good enough. He wanted to get the best picture…and that’s when he started to get a little dangerous.” Derrick’s false story about his father was making Brayden so upset that his hands were bleeding a little from clenching his fists so tight with anger. Derrick continues with his lie, “His dad also went a little crazy, you know…nuts. My dad also said that one of the guys on his former storm chasing team told him that Brayden’s poor father finally went off the deep end, saying ‘how much he wanted to be part of the storm’ and ‘to experience nature’s fury up close and personal’. Well he got up close and personal, all right. You see my friends; Brayden’s dear, sweet, psychotic father was chasing a twister through North Dakota and, according to my father, the tornado was an F-5,” Brayden’s anger was growing as Derrick went on, “and Brayden’s old man wanted to get the best picture of all. He decided that he wanted to photograph the tornado from the inside. My dad’s story goes that Brayden’s father got out of his truck, stood in front of the tornado with his camera in his hand, and waited for the tornado to suck him up.”
“Derrick, tell me, just what the hell would make a guy get out of his truck, stand in the path of a tornado, and get caught in the tornado just to take some lousy pictures?” Mark said snickering.
“I don’t know. Maybe insanity, dementia, lunacy, who knows? But ever since that happened, the townsfolk up there came up with a story.” Derrick’s friends began to laugh while Brayden stood firm frozen with anger. “The story goes that whenever there’s lightning during a tornado and it flashes on the inside of one, that’s Brayden’s crazy old man spinning around in there taking pictures.” Mark and Rupert laugh loudly when Derrick finishes his ‘fairy tale’.
But Brayden was far from laughing. His growing anger toward Derrick turns into red hot fury. “Enough!” he demanded. The boys quieted their laughter and looked at Brayden, whose eyes were burning with rage. “You’ve insulted my father for the last time, Derrick.” Unknowing to Brayden, he was emitting small electrical discharges through his body as he walked slowly toward Derrick, “I’ve had it with you making a mockery of him just because your dad sold out. Just because your old man decided to be some big corporation’s dancing chimp before they cut him off like a diseased limb doesn’t give you the right to take it out on me. You wanna blame somebody for making your dad a loser, why don’t you go home crying, ya big baby.”
By now Derrick is infuriated. Hearing Brayden talk about his father stabbed in him like hot needles. “You better watch your mouth, Branny-boy,” he says angrily through his teeth.
“Look who’s talkin’. Before I’d just push it to the side and ignore it. But this is the final straw. You will not insult my father ever again.” Brayden’s voice became hard and cold, “Insulting my father is one thing, but attacking my best friend is another. So why don’t you try some of those crappy wrestling moves on me, fairy boy.”
“So that’s what you want, huh? Mono e’ Mono?” Derrick said firmly.
“That’s right. Just you and me, and you keep Frick and Frack out of it.”
Derrick holds out his arms at his sides and says, “Fine. Let’s go.”
The two circle each other like gladiators facing off at the coliseum. Suddenly Derrick rushes toward Brayden and throws a right punch, and Brayden dodges it. Then Derrick throws a left hook and again Brayden reacts faster than Derrick. Thinking Brayden is mocking him; Derrick goes into a series of random punches and uppercuts. Amazingly Brayden is able to dodge and evade each one with incredible speed and reaction. “Hold still!” Derrick shouted. Brayden did so, and allowed Derrick to hit him with a two-hit combo that came hard and fast. “How did you like that, loser?” he said slightly out of breath.
“Not bad. Not bad at all…if I actually felt it,” Brayden said coldly as he turned his head to face his opponent with piercing eyes. He lets out a small wicked chuckle as he peered at Derrick, who couldn’t believe that Brayden was able to weather one of his strong punch combos. “My turn,” says Brayden. With blinding speed he leaps up to the wall, jumps off and kicks Derrick in the side of his face, sending him flying into the row of lockers behind him. The force of Derrick’s airborne body was enough to crush in three lockers. Derrick drops the floor. He is knocked out cold. Shocked and in disbelief, Mark and Rupert ran away after seeing what Brayden had done. When Brayden finally calmed down he realized what he had done. Dan finally got himself up and walked over to his friend. “Jeez, how the hell did you do that?” Dan asked surprised.
“I don’t know,” Brayden said bewildered.
“Whatever the hell you did, he deserved it,” Dan said. Fearing that he may have seriously injured Derrick, Brayden quickly turns and runs down the hall. “Brayden? Brayden!” Dan called, concerned for to his friend. He runs down the hall heading towards the front doors and runs out of the building.
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