Brooklyn Thorn and I met for the first time in third grade. It was nothing short of cataclysmic. I suppose it was inevitable for things to happen that way, like a clash of Titans maybe. Truth is, with names like that we could either be best friends or hate each other on sight. On that very first day we met on the playground.

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Brooklyn Thorn and I met for the first time in third grade. It was nothing short of cataclysmic. I suppose it was inevitable for things to happen that way, like a clash of Titans maybe. Truth is, with names like that we could either be best friends or hate each other on sight. On that very first day we met on the playground.

He was surrounded by his cronies, I was the new boy in town who only had one other scrappy not so popular kid named Jeffie to back me up we met in class that morning and he offered me half of his Fruit Roll-Up at lunch. In my book that was friendship. Brooklyn stood all close to me, like I was supposed to be intimidated by his hugeness. He clearly had never been to public school in Newark. I just walked right up and got in his face, even if it was a few inches above mine.

What did some kid from the butt crack of nowhere think he was going to do to me anyway? I made sure that his name sounded like an insult. Plus it was the truth. Sugarcreek, Texas was the last place I wanted to be. I missed my old friends and my backyard, I hated how the sun felt like it was boiling my brains, and I missed downtown being more than a block and a half of ugly old buildings with no decent pizza place. It sucked the big one. That question was paired with a punch to the eye that came flying out of nowhere.

It was my first and not a very strong one. My fist caught his jaw sideways on a half punch-half uppercut, and he reeled backward and sat hard on the cement of the playground.

I noticed his lip was bleeding and he had his hand cupped around his jaw. I knew my mom would ground me if she heard me talk like that. Unfortunately the playground supervisor was. Even with the forced proximity, the cold war had been in force for nearly four whole years, since that day in the beginning of third grade. We managed to maintain icy silence punctuated only by glares and the occasional insult.

In math I got to sit next to my own friends, at least the ones who were in the same classes as me, but my language arts teacher had been brilliant enough to figure out that the only person she could sit the loquacious Brooklyn next to if she wanted him to shut up was me. Of course. It was spring of sixth grade when things boiled over. The heat always made me pissy. I was walking into my two hour language arts and social studies block with a sigh.

Last class of the day. Two fun-filled periods of Brooklyn Thorn. I hated him. I did. Even though it was hard to remember why sometimes. That was until he glared at me or kicked me under the desk and I glared back and I remembered that he was an asshole. I sat in my desk and hunched as far away from him as I could. The teacher was handing out packets for a combined history and literature project. Combined not only with the two subjects but by the fact that we had to work with our desk partner.

When I got to that part on the packet I lost it—quietly of course. Since when had I gone from Yank to Blondie? Just kinda sandy. I was too busy seething. Too late, I looked up to see that his face had matched his voice. He looked like he might be ready for a truce or at least a temporary detente. That was until I talked. Then he whipped his face back until he was staring at his packet. I could see his jaw clenching, teeth grinding. At least we were back to something familiar.

I felt a little bad though. A little. We can divide the work and do it with as little talking as possible. I think the heat had made me go nuts. I knew it was a generic insult, based on my size and general lack of jock-ness, but it felt in that second like he could see into me, see what I was starting to realize—that while all my friends were crushing on girls, talking about their growing boobs and how good they smelled I was noticing how much I liked to look at boys.

Like, really liked to look at boys. I liked their smooth chests, the way their legs were muscular and dusted with hair. I wanted to kiss them and see if their lips felt as nice as they looked. I thought about it all the time. I also knew I wanted nothing to do with those feelings.

In places like Sugarcreek, they were enough to get you dragged behind a car by a rope. We worked diligently, but silently, on our project for a day or two. She was oblivious to our glares, or at least she pretended to be. I thought we had a pretty good scam going.

We looked at each other. I was too worried about getting in trouble to be bothered glaring at him. I stood, nearly knocking my books onto the ground. The teacher took her glasses off and rubbed her eyes. Starting tomorrow after school. Pissed or not, Brooklyn Thorn and I reported for what amounted to detention the next day right after class.

Most of the time I tried really hard not to hear what they were saying. It was actually kind of brutal. What I do know is I pounded him with every muscle I had, pure rage battling against someone who was considerably bigger and stronger. And I know that every time he punched me it hurt like hell. We were suspended. Both of us. Three days. At least my teacher learned her lesson. It was kind of a shock when they called my name. I was graduating. It felt really weird. In a few short months I had my one way ticket and it was going to be one way, damn it out of Sugarcreek, away from Brooklyn Thorn, away from my squalling in-the-middle-of-a-divorce-parents.

I stuck out my hand and took the diploma from our principal before I shook his hand. Which was good. The announcer called his name, and he met the same pleasant applause as I did. It was decidedly less enthusiastic than it had been back at the beginning of the alphabet. People were getting tired of listening. I wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of there. I had an interview the next morning, stocking and doing inventory at the grocery store.

I really, really wanted the job. It would get me some cash for the fall and give myself something to do other than listen to my mother bitch about not having enough money for her own place. All I knew was I needed a break from her rants before I went nuts. The next day, freshly graduated and ready to take on the world, or at least my very first job interview, I biked the two and a half miles from our housing development to the little grocery store that was right downtown.

My mom did it herself. I was nervous when I walked in the store. Even more so when I saw someone else standing there in khakis and a polo shuffling from one foot to another. He has another applicant. I was suddenly not guaranteed my summer of distraction and easy cash. Brooklyn Goddamned Thorn. Was there no escape? No one is ever recognized all over town for being good at schoolwork.


M.J. O'Shea

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Books: 11 Review: 0 Avg rating: 3. Books by M. Bridges Dallas moves from Jersey to a small Texas town in the 3rd grade, and meets Brooklyn.



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