Willie was a foul-mouthed jackass. Stevie and had shoulders that slumped to his belt. They were insufferable and inseparable, the Brown twins.
Jake Brown wanted to kill them both. He was their little brother and shadow, forever wallowing in the dust eddies trailing behind the pair’s size five sneakers.
Jake sat across from me in Mrs. Andlin’s fourth-grade classroom. Every day, for twenty minutes after lunch, Mrs. Andlin granted us ‘study time’ as she finished her noon soap opera on a four-inch black-and-white television she hid in the file drawer of her desk. We were allowed to do whatever we wanted, so long as our lips and asses didn’t budge. I read youth adventure novels. Jake drew pictures of his brothers’ torture, death, and funeral. When he finished a new work, he would pass it me under our desks. Jake knew I shared his hatred for the Brown twins. Willie I wanted to obliterate for kicking three of my teeth from my gums. Stevie I hated for running away as his brother bloodied my face. Stevie was autistic and ran, holding his hands above his head whenever violence ensued. Why he loved cruel Willie, I never understood.
“I don’t wanna, I can’t,” pleaded Ned Wooster, a fourth grader.
“Horseshit. Give it to us or you’re gonna pay,” demanded Willie. He raised the foursquare ball he’d yanked from Ned a second before above his head.
“Leave’hm alone,” demanded Jenny, a third grader who’d transferred from Jackson Elementary at the spring term.
I held by breath and clenched my fists. If Willie picked on girls less often than boys, it was because they presented less challenge. With boys, there was the occasional upstart who tested the cock of the block. I’d tried the year before, and paid two incisors and a canine for my boldness.
I was standing at the edge of the foursquare court, next in line for the game. I’d been waiting for Ned to lose his pole position as server when the Brown twins ambled over. Jake was in line behind me. A dozen spectators from neighboring courts had gathered to watch the twins. After Willie picked a target, it was safe to stand as spectator.
“Mind your bus’ness, new girl,” spat Willie, “or I’ll have my brother here rape you.”
“If you don’t leave him and me alone I’ll…” started Jenny.
“Stevie, rape this bitch,” laughed Willie, pointing to her and thrusting his pre-pubescent crotch toward her. Jenny’s face was red with anger.
We’d seen this play twenty times before. Stevie started whimpering. He turned his back to the foursquare court, stepped off the blacktop and on to the gravel, and ran, yelping, toward the baseball diamond. The only time Willie laughed at his brother was when he fled. It was also the only time he tolerated mirth from others. We turned our heads and watched and laughed at the running retard.
The cry, “Jake,” switched my attention to the other Browns.
I hadn’t noticed Jake leaving my side at the foursquare court, but there he was with a brick in his hand, raised above Willie, who was following gravity to the earth. He brought down a blow to Willie’s forehead. A tiny river of red leaked from his temple.
“Jake?” I asked, startled and confused.
“Jake?” I repeated. I looked down at Willie and swallowed the spit in my mouth. Jake hit him again.
Willie lay on the ground, shaking.
I motioned for Jake to hand me the brick.
“John, find ‘yer own, ” he said, before landing a third blow, to his brother’s stomach. Jake looked up and pointed toward the Elm near the monkey bars. There was a necklace of red bricks circling its trunk.
I fetched a brick and joined my friend.
Peter started in next. Susan after Peter. Thomas joined the mêlée, then others.
“Children! Stop!” Mrs. Simmons cried, flailing at random appendages. She blew her whistle for help. Its scream was shrill in my ears. I hit Willie again.
When they pulled me off, Willie was smashed and my clothes were soaked with blood and sweat. The custodian had me and Susan pinned by the shoulders against the asphalt, but I had a view. There were thirty students falling down on Willie’s body.
The carnage had ended by the time the ambulances pulled to the curb. There were four of them, but only three found passengers. One for Willie, one for Jake, and one for Stevie.
I never saw Jake Brown again.
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