School was out! All the kids galloped for the gate in case the headmistress, Crazy Eye Jeffries, was lurking. Every student lived in mortal terror of her. The nickname came about from a mistake, a kid misheard crazy for lazy.
Crazy Eye had the supernatural ability to manifest from thin air when someone was misbehaving. Forget his first kiss behind the basketball courts or asking Casey-Anne to the prom, Joey’s scariest moment from school was being summoned to Crazy Eye’s office.
Joey was sweet on Casey-Anne ever since the paper fortune teller she made revealed a red love heart. Brad Dubichek was the school bully. A hulking creature who glared or punched whilst extorting lunch money or sweets.
Joey and Casey-Anne were walking to the library when Brad blocked their path. Before anything could happen, Joey heard Casey-Anne speak.
“Brad Dubichek! Aren’t you just the most horrible boy in the ENTIRE school!”
Nearby students gasped. Brad blinked like she had punched him in the face. No boy had ever challenged Brad. The slightest resistance resulted in a busted lip. A girl going up against Brad was huge, bigger than an 80s perm. Joey didn’t speak because his mouth was completely dry. Brad couldn’t speak because his brain was trying to catch up. A defiant Casey-Anne, hand on hip, followed up with another nuke.
“You going to get your big butt out of the way?”
The tension was unbearable. A girl half-screamed then fainted. No one went to help her. Forget about average grades or pushy parents, this showdown would make the whole school year worthwhile.
Brad rebooted, his right hand batted Casey-Anne’s left shoulder so roughly that a book fell out of her bag. Brad sneered.
“I’m gonna dump your book in the toilet!”
Joey saw red and gave Brad a two-handed shove. Brad toppled over like an upside down windmill. “Oh crap!”
Brad pinned Joey to the wall, ready to pound him back to the future.
“Dubicheck, Stevens, my office, now!”
Crazy Eye dispensed with Brad quickly.
“Today was your last strike. You are expelled, clear out your locker.”
Then it was just Joey. What was he going to say to his parents?
“Joey, I suggest you make up for the lost study time.”
“Are you deaf, young man?”
It was a hot summer. Pa Stevens drove all the way with the windows down. Their family cabin was near the water. There were other cabins by the lake and more within the woods.
Joey ran down the slope to the jetty. As usual, Jeb was sat at the end of it with a fishing rod. Jeb was a grizzled old man who looked after the cabins out of season. He was also Joey’s friend, Jeb had taught him how to fish. Joey handed over the bottle of rye from his parents. Jeb chuckled and ruffled Joey’s hair. Joey told Jeb about Brad because it was his biggest news ever.
“It takes guts to stand up for someone, you did good, champ!”
Joey decided to explore the woods on the far side of the lake. It was a fun adventure until he discovered an isolated cabin. He could see animal skins pegged out. It was real creepy. He was sure someone was watching him. Joey panicked and started running. He tripped over a rotting log. Then he saw Brad standing over him with a large stick. He started beating Joey with it. Joey was hit in the face, he could taste blood, he was crying.
The beating stopped. It was a miracle. Crazy Eye had grabbed the stick from Brad who fled with a scream. They walked back to the lake in silence. Jeb waved at them from the jetty.
“Miss Jeffries, don’t tell my parents I was beat up. I’ll say I fell from a tree.”
“We will make a deal.”
“Will you stop calling me Crazy Eye?”
Three days later, a deputy was stood on the porch talking to the Stevens. Joey was sent to his room. He opened the door to eavesdrop. Brad Dubichek was missing.
The next day Joey confided in Jeb.
“If someone did something bad, should I tell?”
“Kid, you’re at that age where everything changes, nothing is ever the same again. Have a swig of my rye, don’t tell your Ma!”
The drink tasted foul and stung Joey’s throat. They baited the hooks. The fish loved it.
The sun was beginning to dip in the sky when a voice called out.
“Jeb, let the kid come over to us!”
Jeb and Joey looked over their shoulders. The Sheriff and a Deputy both had their guns drawn. Joey could see his parents being held back by two other deputies.
“Best take your fish and be with your Pa and Ma. I won’t be around next summer. You remind me of my grandson. He was bullied at school, threw himself into this lake and drowned. I returned to the state years later, found out who the bully was, got him real drunk and drowned him here. He had a family cabin in the woods. It was ruled an accidental death. A murder wears a man down. I was trying to scare the boy, he had a bad streak in him just like his dead Pa, history repeated itself. Run along now, son!”
Joey walked with wobbly legs. The Sheriff and Deputy charged towards Jeb. The cooler next to him was knocked over as they put on the handcuffs, lots of ice and a severed arm spilled out.
The Stevens sold their cabin. Too much bad voodoo had happened.
Summer was over. Joey had an almost untouchable status among his peers in school. Brad had been chopped up by a killer who was Joey’s friend.
Miss Jeffries was walking down the corridor, Joey was by his locker, he smiled at her, she smiled back. Joey had never noticed what a pretty smile she had.