I felt terrible. Mike had been doing everything to help the kids who were hurt, including my brother. Now he was crying beside me because he knew the last things his friend Jack had heard weren't from him, but from me. And I hadn't said anything nice, just pushed the kid out of my way. Like if he was there I wanted to be somewhere else. I didn't even know the kid. Only that he was gay, and that he'd turned Mike that way. I tried to think why I felt that way. I looked over at Mike and he was weeping silently, just tears coming out of his eyes, really. I wondered where it came from. I mean, I've known Mike since he was born. His brother Ray and I had been friends for a long time until he started going to college. I never bothered to get to know Jack. When he started high school, Greg Simson transferred in and told us all what a whore he was where they used to live. All I knew about Jack was that he was best buds with Mike, so I figured he was probably ok. Everybody liked Mike.
That was the first day of school. I don't think anybody especially believed Greg at first, but at lunch my pal Don asked Mike what he knew. Mike came right out and said he was gay, so was Jack, and that they were a couple. Don spread it around that they were a couple of homos, and the thing kind of took on a life of its own.
It's a small regional high school. The kids from Morton, Arlington and Dover all go there. The middle school's in Morton and the grammar school's in Dover. Morton kids have it the worst, as they get bus rides out of town for all but two of their twelve years of school, but everybody got a chance to ride the bus at some point.
Now I was on this bus. Me and Don only took it because it let us skip our last class. These kids had come for orientation - they'd be going to our high school the next year. Mike and Jack had come up with them in the morning since they were both freshmen and from Morton.
Anyhow, ever since the beginning of school, all the guys felt obligated to harass the two queers. I'm ashamed of it now, but Don and I were pretty much the ringleaders. Don beat up Jack pretty good one day, but I stopped him before he did any damage, then again when he went after Mike. I wasn't really thinking about Mike, though. Just how much trouble we'd get in. I mean, we were seniors. We could explain away one beating as being deserved for a wise mouth or something, but two would be pushing our luck.
We never let up, though. It was mostly words, but nobody ever stopped. Mike and Jack got harassed on the bus, in the halls, at lunch. All day, every day. Looking back, I don't know how they took it. But they did take it - everything we could dish out. I don't mean they were happy about it, just that they took it and stayed together. They stayed together all the time. They couldn't really defend themselves, but they showed up at school almost every day. You'd think we'd get bored and leave it alone after a while, but no, somebody was always egging somebody else on.
I looked over at Mike. "I think I should start the bus back up."
"Wait ... don't. It's not that cold out. Nobody's going to freeze. I think the kids that're hurt might be better if it's not so warm in here. I think their heartbeats might slow a little and keep them from bleeding so much."
"Where'd you learn all this stuff?"
"I might be wrong. I hope not. I mostly learned it from Jack. He want's ..." Mike burst out in tears.
"To be a doctor?"
"Yes ... wanted ...."
"Oh, shit, Mike. I'm sorry, I truly am. You really loved that guy, didn't you?"
"More than anything. Jesus! Why? Why'd he hafta die? It can't be! It can't be! Oh, Jack. Why you? You never hurt anybody!"
"Take it easy, Mike. Take it easy. Want me to check out the other kids again?"
He didn't say anything for a minute, then just kind of sat up and looked at me.
"I'll go, too. We gotta clean this place up. There's still stuff everywhere."
"Mike - you check on everybody, I'll clean up."
I went to make sure my brother was still breathing, then started picking up everything that was still on the floor. I started cramming stuff into the nearest book bag and, when it was full, stowing it under a seat and going for the next one. Mike called me over to Jens.
"He's losing it, Jed. I think he lost too much blood. What're we gonna do?"
I didn't have an answer, but just then the bus lit up a little, then suddenly it lit up a lot and there was an orange flashing coming from outside. We finally had help!
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