Einstein once said that the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination. Wrong. The true sign of intelligence is being knocked to the ground multiple times by someone twice your size. As I crawl across the floor to collect my comics and schoolwork (The former far more important than the latter), the voice of my tormentor rings out above the laughter of the school hallway,
“Maybe you can use your powers to pick up those books, Superman©!” More laughter. Mike and his throng of worshippers walk away, on top of the world, their steps louder than any others in the hallway. It’s Mike’s planet. I just live here.
A stream of social workers and community activists has been coming through the double doors of Pearson High since the dawn of time, or so the legends say. They’ve lectured on a range of topics from what to do in a fire to why recycling is important. The most common issue, however, is bullying. People come in from all over the state to talk about bullying and how they were bullied and how YOU can stop it. All that has really done is give the bullies new ideas. Or should I say give the bully new ideas. There is only one bully at Pearson High, and he makes sure everyone knows who that bully is: Mike Fleming. He has a group of kids who follow him around, a little gang of sorts. In my typical cynical humor, I suggested they be called Fleming’s Lemmings. Since Mike doesn’t care enough to look up what a lemming is in a dictionary, the name just stuck.
I sigh as I crawl over to pick up my books, the other students shaking their heads and giggling behind their hands. While I slowly get up, they whisper to one another, pretending not to be talking about me. I can smell their cologne and perfume as I drown out their laughter that grows louder by the second, like a roaring machine. I’m somewhat of a celebrity, and there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Since school started, I’ve always been smarter than the others, and that’s being modest. In first grade, while some struggled to learn how to carry the one, I was doing Algebra. In third grade, while others were making paper cutouts, I was designing six-dimensional Calabi-Yau Manifolds. In fifth grade I realized that it was useless; no matter how far ahead of the curve I was, some brainless jock would still be praised more than I was. No matter how smart I was, still I was bullied.
I always have a desk to myself in class, whichever class that may be; right now it’s math class, Algebra II.
“Can anybody tell me the answer? Anyone? Mike, can you?”
Mike is listening to his iPod. The rap music escaping his headphones is audible even from where I sit in the front of the room.
“Huh? Sorry, teach, I’m kind of busy right now. Why don’t you ask ‘Genius’ over there?”
The class laughs. I sigh.
“Very good,” says the teacher, clearly bored. “The rest of you should follow his example and study more.”
I don’t study at all.
“It’s not that I have a hard time fitting in, it’s just that everyone else has a hard time being smart enough to deal with me,” I explain to my school-assigned therapist. “If everyone else became smarter, I would become nicer.”
“That’s still no reason to call your teammates ‘ignorant wastes of carbon’ and then burst into tears.”
I say nothing. The therapist continues on, his words going in through one ear and out the other. I sit in my chair, slowly sinking into the cheap fabric until the bell rings, hearing the last of his words: no matter how smart you are, everyone is equal.
Those words stick in my mind better than the spitballs stuck in my hair. Is everyone truly equal? Surely I am smarter than those ignoramuses in class. And yet… they are treated better than I am. They’re not assigned therapists. They aren’t made outcasts by both the teachers and students. They aren’t treated like a sub-human. Suddenly I hate them. I hate them all. And I want my revenge.
As I get home I ignore the voicemail icon on the house phone, I ignore my homework, sitting in my backpack, and I ignore my anger until it becomes too much to bear. I try punching a wall, but all that does is leave the wall as it was and turn my fist on fire. I need to settle this, once and for all. I need a plan.
I start work on my revenge plot immediately after I finish my homework. I know it has to be big, and clever. I know it will have to involve fighting. I know I may fail badly. But I have to try.
With my plans finished and made, all that is left to do is to put them into action. This has got to be the riskiest of the 42 ideas I came up with, but it is likely the most effective. As I stand on the roof of the school building, two stories up, I begin to wonder if this really is the greatest use of my genius. I wonder if the angle of my jump will be right, if Mike will arrive on time, or if he will even respond to my text. Suddenly, my phone beeps with his response:
U want 2 fight me in front of the school? Fine. 10:00 it is. See U there. Prepare 2 lose.
While his grammar could certainly improve, Mike’s message gets across just fine. It’s 9:18. I have 42 minutes. 42 minutes to perfect my revenge.
Standing in a hand-sewn cape doesn’t do much for anyone’s morale, but the look on Mike’s face will be worth it. There’s also a reason I chose 10:00: the angle of the sun is just right, and so it will appear to be shining directly behind me. When I jump off the roof of the school and land on Mike, pushing him to the ground, then I’ll finally have my revenge. It’s 9:37. No sign of Mike.
At exactly 10:00, Mike arrives. He’s punctual; I’ll give him that. He calls out to whoever will listen,
“HEY, GENIUS! I’M OVER HERE! WHERE ARE YOU?”
“I’m right here, Mike.” He looks up at me. His reaction is most definitely favorable. He looks like a surprised, dying animal, his eyebrows moving up to his short, brown hair that looks like a Justin Bieber knockoff. As I prepare my jump, he grins. I wonder why. Then, as I fall, his 6’ 1” frame tenses and he raises up his hands in a swinging motion and…
He knocks me aside like a fly. I wish I had seen MY face as I flew into the hard metal fence and blacked out.
Three days later, the lump on the back of my head has almost faded. Mike has bragged about his win the entire time. One time, as I passed him in the hall, I heard,
“Yeah, I know! And the idiot was standing there in a cape jumping off the school roof! So there I am, he’s falling towards me, I just swing my hands at him and hit him into the fence surrounding the school! He just blacks out the moment he hits it, like a little wimp! I know, right!”
I just kept walking as fast as I could. But I know, oh yes, I know that one day, maybe not anytime soon, but one day, I will have my revenge.
And Mike will pay.
Adrian Sheers, Age 12, Grade 7, MS 51 William Alexander, Silver Key