Loose

“Nice job, Beckham!” Ms. Hartman exclaimed handing back his test.

“Beck, what’d you get?” One of his friends chimed in.

“86,” he said and flashed a smile.

“Here you go, Aaron,” Ms. Hartman said, handing back his test. Aaron flipped it over to see a 97 in red ink at the top. His face looked contorted as he tried to mask his smile from his peers.

“Overall, really nice job on the exam everyone! Beckham, though, was the only one who got problem 6 correct, so very nicely done!” She proceeded to lead the class in a round of applause. Aaron’s attention quickly went to his test, he flipped through the pages until he found problem 6. He had gotten it right too. This wasn’t out of the ordinary for Aaron. For the past six years he’s been in the shadows, always in the back of the class.

“Before we begin class today, we have a couple of announcements for the week. Today, Monday, we have the pep rally for the soccer game on Friday. I expect almost perfect attendance as one of our own, Beckham, will be getting an award.”

“Let’s gooooo Beck!” Justin said and quickly put up his hand for a high five.

“Nice job Beck!” other members of the class chimed in.

“Settle down, settle down. I know we are all excited about having one of our own be honored but let me get through today’s announcements, ok? Now, we have the mathlete competition on Tuesday and waterpolo on Wednesday.” Her chair glides out from under her desk as she pulls it out to take a seat. She must have forgotten that Aaron is the sole member of the math team.

The classroom door slammed open with the principal bursting in.

“There’s an alligator loose in the school!” he yells almost out of breath.

“What? Where?” Ms. Hartman responded, rushing to the principal’s side.

“Last I saw, it was in the courtyard,” his hands were on his knees now and sweat dripped from his forehead while the veins bulged from his neck.

The room started to fill with chatter and movement, with Beck and his friends leading the pack.

“I can get ‘em,” Beck said, thrusting his backpack over his left shoulder. Beck and his posse made their way to the door to join the principal and Ms. Hartman. Aaron stayed frozen in his spot in the back row of the classroom.

Beck pulled the door open and quickly ran out of the room followed by the principal, Ms. Hartman and his friends.

That sparked the floodgates to the entire class rushing out of the classroom at breakneck speed to see what was going to go down. Hot on Beck’s tail, they followed him to get a better view.

Aaron finally started putting his papers in his bag while the last stragglers went out. He meandered his way out of the classroom door just to be slammed against the wall by the mobs of students in the classroom. It’s like they didn’t even see him. Aaron tried to stay on the side just watching the kids run.

Aaron’s shoulder crumpled as he was pushed harshly into the wall again. Enough was enough. He turned around and tried to make his way upstream. His shoulders constantly smacked the people who passed him. His pace picked up as more people smacked into him. His shoes smacked the tile stairs as he ran up them, skipping a step. Once at the top, he made a beeline for the 3rd door on the right. A thick wooden door, probably 7ft tall looked identical to the other four doors that lined the hallway yet this one had a gold plack: Mr. Marvin Lipez — custodian. Aaron knocked twice on the door, hearing each pound from his fist getting muffled by the door absorbing it.

“Come in,” croaked Marvin. Aaron pushed open the door to find Marvin lounging at his desk.

“What up Aaron?” he said readjusting his position to be more upright in the chair.

“Have you heard about the alligator?” Aaron spoke softly, prompting Marvin’s head to tilt in a way that showed he had no clue about it. Aaron continued, “the Principal interrupted our class, saying there was a loose alligator in the school; Beck’s going to fight it.” Aaron made his way over to the wall of windows where he could see the other school buildings and the courtyard below.

“Of course Beck is,” Marvin groaned, getting up to join Aaron at the window.

“OWWWWW!” came piercing through the office from outside. Marvin and Aaron’s nose were pressed so close to the window you could see the condensation on the window. Their eyes were locked in on what looked to be a murder scene below.

Blood. Everywhere.

“Someone’s gotta do something!” Aaron said.

“You gotta do something Aaron,” Marvin said, turning to look at him.

“Why me?” Aaron said, puzzled.

“Why not you? What do you have to lose?” he said.

“My foot…” he said sarcastically, turning his head away.

Aaron started running at breakneck speed down to the courtyard, leaping over four stairs at a time. The courtyard doors swung open. All eyes were on him. Students were practically hanging off the windows on all the floors of the building trying to get the best view.

“Come here lil alligator,” Aaron slowly said while surveying the courtyard. His eyes darted all over the ground until he finally locked eyes with the little bugger. The 8-foot gator was just beneath the bench on the furthest side. Aaron’s brisk pace picked up into a jog alerting the gator to what was incoming. As he drew near to the gator, he saw Beck in the corner holding his leg in a pool of his own blood. The gator’s mouth opened wide, showing row after row of teeth stained with Beckham’s blood. Aaron slowed down to a snail’s pace as he began to get in the gator’s range.

“Good girl,” Aaron said softly, inching closer and closer with still no plan in mind.

“Come on now girl, come with me gently.” He tried to bargain with her, but it came off more as a plea. A low bellow was released from the gator, who showed just enough teeth to make Aaron take a step back. As soon as her mouth closed, Aaron ran over, fist up and ready to hit.

“WHAM BAM.” He struck her once, then twice. The gator remained motionless laying on the concrete floor. Aaron had just sucker punched a gator. He raised his head to look at his adoring fans but saw no one when he looked up. He stumbled backwards before jogging to class.

The classroom door opened and he stepped in.

“And that’s how you find the derivative-,“ Ms. Hartman said but Aaron walking in caused a distraction, forcing her to pause.

“Take your seat, Aaron,” she said and gestured to the back corner where his bag was. Aaron walked through an aisle of desks while his classmates looked at Ms. Hartman. He held his right arm as it throbbed from the pain and blood escaped through his knuckles. Aaron went and took his seat in the back and pulled out a piece of paper to take notes on.

“I hope Beck’s okay,” a girl three rows in front of him said slightly too loudly.

“Me too, he was so brave!” her friend responded.

“I know you all are worried about Beck, me too, but focus on the lesson. Okay?” Ms. Hartman addressed the class.

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