The Homework Theif by Marc Alexander Valle

A mini-story from my mini-book, So You Say You Want An 80s Childhood?

The Homework Thief

Brian Ross was my friend.

“Are you friends with Brian?” Anna said to me, sitting on the floor in gym class. “I think he puts mayonnaise in his hair.”

“No, he doesn’t,” I said.

“Yeah,” Frieda said. “He smells like my lunch bag.”

“No, he doesn’t.”

Brian Ross was my friend, even if he were to put peanut butter on his head. Brian liked what I liked on TV, and we could play the same characters every recess without my having to tell him about them. He was the only other kid that laughed at my cartoon jokes and references. Brian Ross was my friend. Then Brian Ross stole my homework.

It was there in the bin. I told Mrs. Cain that I swore I did my homework and put it there when I arrived at 8am. So she looked through all of last night’s assignments and pulled it out. I could see my name erased and Brian’s name now on top of it.

“That’s it,” I said. “I know because I wrote my name nice and big.”

Mrs. Cain turned to the class. “Alright, let’s go to lunch. Marc and Brian I want you to stay behind.”

At recess, my classmates surrounded me, trying to piece together what happened.

“He tried to make it look like it was his homework?”

“Did he ask to take it?”

“Is he getting in trouble?

I answered the questions as fast as they were given, and I assured them that I didn’t give him the assignment. I liked this feeling, this attention. It felt good. All eyes were on me for the first time in a very long time. The boys even stopped playing kickball to question me, and the hopscotch girls left their beanbags unguarded. This was nice.

Within two minutes, they’d gotten all the information they needed, and I ran out of things to tell them. They began to talk amongst each other about Brian.

“Yeah, he smells like ham sandwich.”

“He took my pencil.”

“Why’s he always dirty?”

They kept going on about different circumstances involving Brian. I laughed at a joke without even hearing the punchline.

“Mrs. Lee looked mad,” I said.

They kept talking.

“He got upset.”

They kept talking.

“I think he’s scared.”

They kept talking.

“He picks his nose too.”

They looked at me.

“I know. I saw it,” Lucy said. “He does it all the time.”

I continued, “He used to be my friend, but he acts stupid sometimes.”

“He thinks he’s funny,” Elvin said.

Their circle opened up, enough for me to fit in. It was as though they made the perfect spot for me with my name on it. I walked forward. The circle closed again. I was in. I was there. I was one with the rest.

Brian walked out of the building and onto the playground pavement. His head was pointed down to the ground as he zipped up his thin red jacket. The kids turned towards him. I backed away just a bit.

He stopped and scanned the playground, then turned and looked at me. I looked away. A kid in the group said something that made the other kids laugh. I chuckled at the joke without even hearing the punchline.

by Marc Alexander Valle

©2022

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