Battles In The Dark

Battles in the Dark

By: Jasmin Caraway

I woke up, climbed out of bed, and made my way over to the washroom. Monday mornings were very confusing for me. I didn’t know if I should be happy, since I can go to school, or if I should be angry. What put it all into perspective was the fact that HE was still here, and was a parasite that just wouldn’t go away! Flushing the toilet, I walked over to the mirror, stared at my sleepy face, and decided I was happy to go to school today.

“Hurry up in there damn it!” I heard this pathetic, piece of human yell through the doorway. Disregarding this nuisance, I turned on the shower, and jumped in. It wasn’t like him to be up this early. The lazy jerk is usually still in bed when I come back from school.

BANG BANG BANG!

“I fuckin’ said hurry up damn it!” I heard once again.

Ugh my god… I thought.

“Darren, hurry up in there already.” My mom was now yelling too. I know the only reason she was yelling now was because of him. One last rinse of my face and body and I finally got out. As soon as I walked out of the door I heard yelling, not that it was a hushed argument when I was in the shower.

“I told your stupid ass not to take my car!” My mom yelled.

“Would you shut the fuck up already!” he screamed back. I just walked to my room, towel around my waist, ignoring their B.S. I sifted through my drawers looking for my uniform pants and shirt. Digging deep into the drawer, I find my wonderful treasures and got dressed.

“Make sure your brother is up and getting ready.” My mom managed to say, squeezing in the command while she battled this jerk.

Of course! Wonderful mom, whatever you say! Never mind the fact that you are the actual parent, and should be taking care of ME. I thought.

“Uh huh, you just make the babies, and I take care of them.” I say under my breath. “And when tax season rolls around, you’re gonna be all giddy, buy a new car, since he fucked up the other one, and let him use it, ‘cause you just don’t… learn.” I continue.

It seems to be this way for whatever she buys though. T.V., computer, with nice stands to go with them, nice framed pictures of her kids, which are later destroyed by her ritualistic brawls with this ‘thing’.

“Marcus, get up man. I don’t know how you sleep through this.” I say to my little brother. He’s lying there, mouth-hanging open, as he begins to come out of his deep sleep. He’s only six, and I have practically raised him; tried to be the best example that I can be, but it’s hard when you have animals like the one out there, constantly coming around.

Ms. Applegate

Monday.

Another grueling week of objectives, standards, lessons, grading homework and dealing with kids who constantly give me grief.

When I started teaching, I landed a position at a local school that has kindergarten through 8th. I didn’t realize that this would be the hardest start to my career…ever! Well I guess I could have assumed this since I started my career teaching 8th grade. I know that when I was in school, I was constantly hearing how the first year of teaching is the hardest, but this was in no way comparable to what they said. This was like someone pulling your hair out one by one, punching you in the face repeatedly..

Still, I conquered this challenge. Not backing down, I felt a sense of accomplishment as that first school year finally came to an end. And now, here I am, Monday morning, and it’s the same torment at the beginning of a whole new week. Only now, I have my craft of discipline for the hardest age group you can ever deal with in education. Don’t get me wrong; there are lots of good apples in the batch this year.

One apple in particular that I notice often is very quiet, and to himself. He is not in my class, but I can’t seem to get him out of my mind. He’s no more then 12, but I came to later learn he was wiser then his age let on. He had a caramel complexion, with dark brown almond shaped eyes. His hair was not the same texture as everyone else around him. He had his little brother with him, I assume, since this younger boy had very similar features. I remember that day, at the beginning of the school year asking him what his name was.

“Hi, I’m Ms. Applegate.” I recall, as I approached him that day in the student cafeteria.

He just looked at me, and smiled politely, not noticing the social cue, avoiding the opportunity to tell me what his name was. I noticed him because he was holding his little brother’s hand and walking him to the line to get what looked to be waffles. For his age, I thought it strange that he would be holding a young kids hand. Figuring that he was not going to answer me, I asked him what his name was.

“Darren.” He replied shortly.

I think I was the only teacher that would ever go into the cafeteria and be amongst the students. But this was at the beginning of the school year, and I wanted to get to know them first hand, whether they were in my class or not. I don’t think my ability to help students learn, or listen to their personal issues, should stop within the jurisdiction of my classroom. Not many of the other teachers agreed with this, and turned their nose up to me. But I didn’t really care.

After I asked him what his name was, his little brother proved to be the exact opposite of him. He was quite the chatterbox.

“Hi teacher, I’m Marcus, I’m in first grade!” He said excited at the fact that a grown up was listening to him.

“Well hello Marcus, that is wonderful that you are in first grade. I bet you can count to 100!” I said to him enthusiastically.

Darren just stood in line with his little brother and me, not feeling any kind of inclination to speak or join in the conversation. He just plopped a plate down on a tray, filled with waffles and syrup for his little brother. Our pace down the line moved slowly, as Marcus and I continued our conversation.

“Ya I can, and I love waffles teacher, especially with syrup.” He said.

“Oh ya they’re great with syrup. Very tasty…” I smiled at him, putting some waffles on my plate as well.

“Come on Marcus; let’s go sit down so you can eat your waffles.” Darren said, finally breaking his own silence.

“Bye teacher.” Marcus said to me, and I watched them walk away towards the table.

“Bye boys.” I said, letting the departure of my words follow the trail of their steps, not getting a reply from Darren.

Darren

Me and Marcus make it to school, and I take him into the lunchroom since he likes waffles for breakfast. I don’t like the waffles; they taste like rubber and paper boxes. So I left him there. I went back outside, and found a spot on the school steps, and sat down. This morning was crazy and full of all the jerks that ignore me every day. I pulled out my notebook and started to draw. I had some time to kill before I had to get in line anyways.

No one knows that I like to draw…or write. I would never show that I like to write, ‘cause I don’t want to get beat up, I like my face the way it is; I can’t say the same for other people’s faces though, especially Tommy’s face. I look around at all these fakers, who walk past me like I’m a ghost.

I must come off as a black boy with too many issues for anyone to even wanna get to know me. I guess that’s why no one talks to me. Maybe I’m not as cool, or maybe I’m ugly? I don’t know…who cares anyways! I don’t like to talk about me at all, or talk to anyone period! It seems like people are just out for themselves… especially the teachers. All they care about is ‘Wow, look what I did! I solved a little kid’s problem today! Not realizing that they only solved it for a little while; winning the battle, but not really the war. They just help the kids while they’re in their class, and then send ‘em off to the next adult that will handle aaalllllll the issues that they have…bein’ super fake and not really caring. I’m lucky though, I sneak past their radar of needing ‘help’ since I get ok grades.

My mind begins to wander and I started drawing a picture of a fat black cat, with long, fluffy fur, and green eyes. I feel tears begin to swell.

I can’t let these tears come out right now!

I am really gonna look like a sissy and give everyone more of a reason to bully me. I know he was just a cat, but he was like another little brother to me. I don’t understand how a person like this man my mom was seeing, could do such a horrible thing.

He was my cat.

The last thing I had that gave me some sense of a point for being at home. Now…he’s gone, because of him. I searched for this cat everyday outside after school, hoping, wishing and praying that I would find him. I cried myself to sleep, knowing that he was old and outside in the freezing cold, slowly slipping away from life… and me. I miss him so much, and I will never forgive my mom for letting this horrible man stay around after he put my cat out to die in one of the coldest nights we’ve had this winter.

I loved him. I always will…

I continue drawing my cat trying to make this picture come to life. This is where I feel I am safest. Right here in this nice quiet bubble of comfort. I trail away from the picture and begin to write.

Disgusted by how she chooses that foo’ over you…

Wonderin’ how much more of dis’ you gotta go through…

Treadin’ through the…

My thoughts are quickly interrupted by someone I try to avoid at all costs; but fall victim to today.

“Hey dork! What are you doing?” I didn’t even see him coming. It was Tommy. He was like my mom’s boyfriend, a bully. His face was fat, flat, and white, with big ears and beady eyes. And as he attempted to humiliate someone, all his features would squeeze closely together in the center of his fat head as he laughed. Kinda’ like he ate something sour.

“I’m talking to you!” He said.

I didn’t look up at him…I didn’t need to; I knew what his stupid face looked like. Plus, I would probably hit him if I did look at him. He looked like ‘Dennis the Menace’.

“What’s wrong with you? You can’t hear me through that kinky hair? Or is it those tiny ears?” He said slapping the notebook out of my hands. Everyone was looking now. Where are all the teachers? I thought, as I looked back and forth.

“Why are you always so quiet?” he asked, as he began to really let me have it, “Is it because you think you’re better than everyone else? You little midget!” When he said this, I stood up and checked to see if Marcus was around, hoping that he was still in the lunchroom. I didn’t want him to see me hit this jerk. I turned to face him, and look him right in the eyes.

“Ooohhh…what are you gonna do twirp? You are a weak, pathetic nerd. You have no guts. You’re just a punk.” He said.

As I looked into his beady eyes, I felt the adrenaline rush from my core, to all the endpoints of my body.

“Shut up Tommy, don’t you have something sweet and fattening to be shoving in your mouth right now?” I said condescendingly.

He looked at me and cocked his head to the side, as if what I said was in Chinese.

Blinking quickly, and shaking his head, he pushed me hard and I fell back onto the steps. He laughed, and I got up so fast that he didn’t even see my fist swing back behind me, and make contact with that fat face of his. His head barely budged against my fist.

Uh oh.

He turned his head back towards me, and grabbed his cheek. I saw his face turn as red as an apple, and he swung his arm, balled up his fist and hit me directly in the face. I saw a flash of light, along with a bunch of images of how my mom’s boyfriend would hit her. How her face would be red and swollen right in the spot where she was hit.

This is was my life…one vicious cycle.

Ms. Applegate

When I heard that Darren had gotten into a fight that day, I hadn’t really thought much of it, besides how it seemed so unlike him to even be that type. But then when I found out later that he had a brain aneurysm after he went to the hospital for his broken nose, I was devastated. I thought about Marcus, and how hard he had taken this. I thought about how hard it must have been for him. I told Marcus after I found out, that I would be there for him whenever he needed. Marcus never came. His family moved away, and the last I heard, his mother’s boyfriend had been sent to jail.

Reflection

When I began writing this story, I knew what I wanted the story to start off like. I wanted it to depict a young black boy, growing up with a mother who didn’t show any care or interest in her children. I want to write something that is powerful like that stories that we read in class. I thought that during our workshop, there were stories that were told that held so much in them, they are bound to be great topics that can turn into novels. I had a bit of trouble once I got more towards the end of my story. I found it difficult to condense it all into eight pages, and to write a complete story within those eight pages. I’m actually happy that I had to write a story with an ending because in other pieces that I am writing, I have started the stories but cannot come up with the ending.

For Battles in the Dark, I wasn’t as nervous about the workshop this time around. I found it to be really useful, and some of the things that were pointed out, I had totally ignored or missed, like the exclamation points in my writing. I think that I have done this so often, that it has become systematic and unintentional. But since I am aware of it now, I will pay better attention to all the minor details. As for the differentiation between the characters, I found that to be the most useful. I had the story in mind, and the characters, but I didn’t delve as deep into the mannerisms of these characters, if they were actual people. This was a very useful tip for me.

I had also thought once or twice about making drastic changes and taking out Ms. Applegate’s character completely, and just focusing on Darren. But after putting the heading at the beginning of each character’s excerpt, I decided against it. I am content for now with how the story came out, but I know I will definitely go back and make changes.

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