Hate and Love
Millie woke and massaged
her temples. Sunbeams framed drawn shades. Afternoon?
She turned; her blue bandanna covered the clock. Another
anxiety blackout? What’s the last thing . . . the morning meeting
with Simon’s spineless principal!
She rubbed her neck. Advil!
She slipped on her terry
robe and stepped into the hallway. Simon’s door was closed. Past four already? She approached and knocked. “How was school, sweetie?”
She grabbed his doorknob. Locked!
eyes watered. “Did Nick bully you again?”
Silence, still, as usual. He’d
have swept his desk clear and laid his head on his arms, crying.
on your friends. Nobody who matters cares about your
She felt the slim key through
her pocket, then dropped her hand.
respect your privacy”—she wiped off tears—“but talking always helps.”
Mousy Moorehead! He set up today’s
meeting after last week’s threats, then gave Nick a warning after his hollow apology.
“I’ll make sundaes.”
She waited, then bit her
lip. Refusing ice cream? Nick must’ve pulled his
Bang! Bang! A fist pounded the front door. “Police, Mrs. Gold!”
yelled to Simon. “It’s the police! Maybe
they’ve arrested Nick.”
She ran downstairs and opened
the door for a muscular patrolman.
Broderick, ma’am. There was an incident at the
Moorehead leniency would only encourage Nick Marden. Mousy dismissed them both to Woodshop.”
He nodded. “I need to ask about afterward.”
“Simon’s decompressing. I give him
alone time when he’s upset. You understand, with kids.”
raised his left eyebrow. “It’s urgent we sort this out.”
“Then I’ll fill you in. In elementary
school, Simon’s microtia was a curiosity, not a curse.” She brushed her left
ear. “And it’s barely noticeable now, with the surgery. But Nick’s been
calling him ‘half-head’ since September, shoves him in the hallway, and scorched
interviewing Nick—his father gave permission.”
“Of course. Now his parents respect authority. They skipped our meeting, wouldn’t
face that Junior’s a hateful delinquent. Don’t trust what Nick says.”
“We tried calling here, about talking
“I silence my phone
when I get migraines.”
“Someone pulled the woodshop fire
alarm fifteen minutes after your meeting. Was it Simon?”
would he . . .” Her jaw dropped and she grabbed
Broderick’s shirt. “Was Simon hurt?”
windmilled his right arm, breaking her grip. “Ma’am!”
he yelled, red-faced. “Don’t do that!”
out her hands. “I—I’d never hurt
anybody, especially a policeman. Just tell
me what happened at school.”
Broderick brushed down his
shirt. “Right, school. The alarm caused a big commotion, everyone packing the halls.
And the shop teacher was focused on securing the flammables, following protocol.”
He paused. “Mrs. Gold, were you still in the building then?”
narrative evoked forgotten memories, like yesterday’s dream. “I was. . . .
I left with everyone else . . . so crowded. . . . Some of the kids were yelling.”
Broderick’s phone chimed. He tapped
it, muttered, “From the captain,” then looked back at her. “Mrs. Gold, I have
to come in now.”
Simon’s been through—”
“Fine! Seeing the police take this
seriously might help, anyway.”
She led him upstairs. “If
only the Mardens taught Nick consideration, or Moorehead meted out consequences. . . .”
She gestured to Simon’s door.
Broderick rattled the knob, then
scowled at her.
“It’s his safe
space. Just knock.”
“He locked this?”
allowed it, since the bullying.”
Broderick shook his head, turned
back toward the door, then stooped and stared.
Millie followed his gaze
to a crimson speck. “Simon’s bleeding!” She reached into her pocket,
then fumbled with the key. “We’re coming, sweetie!”
When the lock popped, Broderick burst
in, stepped to the desk, and held up his phone. Millie followed, then froze, dropping the
Simon wasn’t there,
yet his desk had been swept clear, clear except
for three items: his clock, sixteen red LEDs displaying 12:15; the nub of an earlobe,
matching the scoring knife’s gash in Nick Marden’s photo on the cop’s
phone like a puzzle piece; and her cursive on a stained sheet of paper, Nick will never tease you again.
Jacob Graysol (jacobgraysolnovelist.com) lives and writes in central New Jersey.
He wrote the lawyer-laden police procedural Righteous
Judgment, and published its sequel, Righteous Endeavors, in February
2020. His flash fiction has been published by Every Day Fiction and Reflex Press (UK).