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Justin Hall | Feb. 14, 1989 | Sec B. English

Max

John arrived at school that cold day with a whimper and not a bang. His friend Mister Bailey was waiting there to talk to him and John knew that this was nothing to be exited about. Mister Bailey was his school appointed advisor, someone to defend him when he was in trouble. John waited until his name had been called for roll call and then he shuffled over to where Mister Bailey was standing. "Hey Mister Bailey, what's up?"

"John, we have got to talk."

John gulped and tried to remain composed, a look of false security creeping onto his face, "Okay, what do you need?"

Mister Bailey had been through this before and knew that John was going to try to look as though he did not care, "John, I would wipe that grin off of your face, the head of the sixth grade wants to talk to you about your fight with Tom yesterday."

John fell into the chair that seemed to be waiting for him, his clothing and jacket were in a general disarray, and a shallow sigh escaped his chapped lips.

"Seems that Tom is really hurt about some of the things you said to him, let alone what you physically did to him. The school is thinking about calling your parents because your record is definitely less than perfect-"

"But he deserved it! You should have heard the things he said about Max. He deserved every bit of it and all the stuff I said too." John knew that he was right about this, that Tommy really did deserve it, but he still couldn't look Mister Bailey in the eye. Funny, he thought, whenever you hit somebody who really deserves it, you get in more trouble. John felt the familiar lump in his throat rise and almost choke his breathing. John decided that times had not been good to him and that he was going to do something about as soon as he got the chance to get his scattered life together. He knew that all he needed was the chance and then he would make them all wish they would have been nicer to him. John was sad, but he knew that when he got home, the familiar barking of his dog Max would be there to cheer him up no matter what. Max was the only person who understood what an asshole Tommy was and how much he deserved to be hit. John knew he shouldn't hit people, but certainly Tommy was an exception? He was always being mean to somebody and making them feel stupid and hitting them, but everybody seemed to like him more for that. John couldn't understand that and wondered how a whole grade of people could be so dumb.

"I doubt he deserved it, and even if he did that isn't any reason to hit someone. Now get out of that chair and get to your social studies class, I can't make you late!"

John had heard all of this a zillion times before and he knew that he shouldn't hit Tommy, but Tommy was just such... acted so... John just couldn't find words for it. He decided that Tommy's behavior was beyond human comprehension and that he was right for hitting him. He knew that nobody at school understood him and he looked forward to seeing Max at the end of the day. He decided that tomorrow, after spending today in the backyard with Max, he would come to school changed, a new John. Smiling a little at this thought, he got up and shuffled to his Social studies class.

The rest of his morning went as it usually did for John. He shuffled around, yelled a little bit, wasn't really prepared for class, and was tired out quickly. At lunch he walked through the crowds of people who were running beside him because he knew that his friend Marshall would be saving a place for him in line like he always did. His backpack bouncing against his back, John broke out in a sprint as soon as he caught a glimpse of Marshall's red hair. Arriving at the line out of breath, he tried to squeeze behind the blond haired boy in front of Marshall. Try as he could he couldn't fit, so he said to Marshall, "Watch out Marsh, let me in." Marshall ignored him and pulled in tighter with the rest of the line. "Come on Marsh, Marshall?" John tapped Marshall on the shoulder while he said this. Marshall just shrugged his shoulder and turned deeper into the surging mass of children. John again tried to push his way through the line. Just as his foot reached between the others, intermingling with all the other children's spastic shoes and boots, Marshall put his hands on John's chest and sent him flying backwards. John felt his body falling backwards and tried to turn his upper torso to face the quickly approaching floor, but his feet failed him and was sent stumbling against the hard grey floors of the unsympathetic hall. John's body slid across the hall until his head hit the opposite wall.

John recognized the familiar anger building up within him as he heard the jests of the other children ringing in his ears. Struggling against his backpack which lay on top of his body like an old heavy rag doll, he felt his sweaty palms slipping across the tile floors. Leaning against the wall for a breath, he threw off his pack and broke out in a run toward Marshall lowering his upper torso to prepare for the impact with him. As he felt his left shoulder ramming into Marshall's stomach, he heard Marshall's breath expel in a sudden whoosh as his body crumpled and fell to the floor. John balanced himself and stood above Marshall in a stance of victory, his fists clenched and his breath coming in short gasps. As he saw his friend lying beneath him in a defeated heap, cheeks red, tears flowing from his eyes, he did not feel proud of hurting his old friend. This time he felt like running, past all the kids, past Tommy and Marshall, past the homework, past his parents, past everything, except Max. He would run to Max. Max, his only real friend in the world. Max would always be his friend, not like Marshall. Marshall was not half as good a friend as Max was. Max was the best.

John started to run, his legs pumping, sending him through the kids and past the astonished teachers. He ran all the way past Mister Bailey and the Sixth grade head, past all of his classrooms till he came to the door of the school. Bursting through the door, he ran down the steps and through the playground, leaping around the younger children till he came to the gate. He stopped at the gate and put his hands on his knees, gasping for breath. Looking around at the accusing eyes of all the little children, he leaned against the post, his breath coming out in white clouds of steam.

Suddenly he heard the shout of teachers and saw the head of one of his teachers poke out of the door in a search for him. John turned and ran out of the gate to the street in front of him, the cars and vans almost comforting. He felt free as he ran through the street to the other side, down the snow-filled sidewalks to the end of the block, down the familiar street where Marshall lived. Not even pausing by the now strange-looking house, he ran to the snow covered lawn of his front yard. His pulse pounding, he ran in the front door to the living room, threw his coat on the floor and ran to the basement door to say hi to Max.

"Max, here boy! Max, Max?" John searched the area around the basement door and ran down into the basement to where Max's bed lay.

"Max? Max?" John was yelling now, running from corner to corner of the basement searching for his dog. Tearing up the steps, he ran to his room yelling. Reaching his room, he saw a lump of black fur on the blanket, curled up and lying in a blissful sleep. John breathed a sigh of relief and ran to the bedside trying to coax his dog. He petted him and started telling him about his day when he felt how cold the fur was. Shocked, his mouth dropped open. "Max, wake up. Max, wake up now. Now! Wake up Max! Max!" John shook the dog, then screamed in an effort to wake him up.

John knew Max was dead. He slid down the bed and let Max's head fall, his own head falling into his hands and the tears flowing freely.


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