Chapter 1: Outcasts
Dylan still held on desperately to a shred of hope that this school year would be fun. Doubtless, he only held onto such hope because the only other option was despair. Fourth grade was supposed to be different, he had been told; he and the other kids were almost in the double digits in age, certainly they’d be more mature now, his mom had suggested. Despite having yet to make any friends in his first three years at this school, he somehow hoped this year would be different.
Dylan lined up for class in the brisk September morning, and noticing at least half of the kids were from his class last year. His heart sank as he recognized the same kids that had picked on him throughout the third grade. “Maybe they won’t remember me” He hoped, avoiding eye contact as the teacher more firmly instructed to make a single file line.
The children filed into class with the chattering of the more popular kids discussing their summers. Dylan found his seat in the third row and placed his backpack on the chair attached to his small desk. He saw Tom, one of the main instigators of his bullying from last year, shoot him a smug, evil little smile. He quickly diverted his gaze, downward, noticing the desk next to his was already occupied.
“Hi” Dylan said to the boy next to him, summoning up his courage; his neighbor had not been in his class last year, which was a good start at least.
“Hi” The boy returned sharply, looking him up and down in a predatory sort of way, as if sizing him up.
“So, umm, what class were you in last year?” Dylan asked hesitantly.
“I went to a different school.” The boy responded, a little gentler as he noticed Dylan’s discomfort. “My name’s Paul, what’s yours?”
“I’m Dylan, nice to meet you.” He said, offering his hand, and the other boy shook it briskly. Dylan breathed in a little deeper, at least the first kid he had talked to this year had gone okay.
Morning recess came and Dylan followed Paul out onto the recess grounds.
“You went to this school last year right?” Paul asked as they walked out towards the soccer field.
“Well, where’s your friends?” Paul asked heading towards the corner of the field.
Dylan continued following Paul’s pace, not bothered that they were walking further away from the throng of children. “I umm,” he started, faltering, “Is it okay if I hang out with you?”
“Sure,” Paul replied shrugging, though Dylan could sense the kid kind of wanted to be left alone. Instead, Paul put up with Dylan’s presence as the two sat under a tree, on one of the large roots protruding from the ground, at the edge of the school yard. Cars occasionally passed by on the street behind the chain link fence a few feet from this final large tree “So, umm what’re you into?”
“I like video games,” Dylan replied happily, “and reading and stuff.”
“Me too, which games?” Paul said, finally a little more relaxed.
“RPGs, and the Zelda games, and those kinda ones.” Dylan specified.
“Me too, that’s cool. You ever heard of Magic?” Paul asked.
“What, like tricks?”
But before Paul could explain about Magic: The Gathering, the duo noticed they’d been surrounded by four other boys, looking down on them from their standing positions.
“Looks like the crybaby’s trying to drag the new kid into his baby-club.” Tom, a boy with slicked down hair, said as he gave a menacing grin to Dylan.
“Just leave me alone Tom,” Dylan whined, not looking up at the four.
“Kid,” Tom said, addressing Paul, “Don’t hang out with this baby. He’s a total wuss.” With that Tom took his foot and shoved Dylan in the shoulder, knocking him off the root and onto the ground.
Dylan felt tears welling up in his eyes, but bit down on his lip hard, trying not to. Paul seemed to be an okay kid, he couldn’t let him see what a baby he was. “Go away, Tom, you dummy!” Dylan said, sniffling as he pulled himself up and went back to sit on the oversized tree root. His hand instinctively felt instead his pocket for his paci, but it wasn’t there. He should’ve known it wouldn’t be, his mother had convinced him to stop taking it to school at the beginning of last school year. Still, he’d had it with him all summer and it was a shock that it was suddenly gone again.
Paul watched with an apathetic disinterest as the four boys further surrounding Dylan, glaring down at him.
“Why,” Another boy said, “What’re you gonna do if we don’t go away?” He pinched Dylan’s arm, twisting the skin. Another boy shoved him of the root again, into the dirt with a light thump. Suddenly, Dylan was bawling, the shock of hitting the ground and these kids picking on him being too much for him to handle. He knew Paul would leave with the other kids now, that he’d be alone for another year, but the whole thing just hurt too much, he couldn’t handle it. He covered his face, just in case another blow was to follow.
“Fuck off.” He heard above him. Dylan took his hands away from where he’d been holding his face to see Paul standing, squaring off, in front of the other four.
“What, you’re going protect that stupid crybaby?” Tom asked in disbelief.
Paul didn’t answer, he simply punched Tom in the face, dropping Tom to his knees as he howled in pain. Paul simply balled his hand into a fist again and looked to the other three. Tom may not have made a sound, but Dylan could see tears were in his eyes as the other three helped him up and they walked back towards the classrooms.
“Thank you,” Dylan said, barely above a whisper as the other kids left. He felt utterly pathetic in front of the new kid, who had gone out of his way to beat up Dylan’s tormenter.
“Do they pick on you a lot?” Paul asked
“Yeah,” Dylan said, embarrassed about the fact.
“That sucks,” Paul replied, but the bell rang and before they could continue their discussion it was time to head back into class.
Dylan was in a whirlwind of emotion between morning recess and lunch. He desperately wanted to ask Paul why he had saved him, whether or not he wanted to be friends, and just, why? Paul, Dylan realized, probably didn’t understand what social suicide Paul had committed by helping him out. He had been the torment toy of his grade, the scapegoat whenever kids got in trouble, for two years now.
The other kids would pick on him until he cried, then he’d tell on them, and would get in trouble because the other kids would always claim he started it. Adults believed the kids in the majority, so Dylan was almost as used to detention as he was used to being hit and pushed around. He was elated to have a potential friend in Paul, but just as worried about Paul’s life being hurt by being associated with him.
It might’ve started because he was still using his pacifier in the first grade, or maybe because he didn’t like sports. Dylan couldn’t remember how the bullying had gotten started, but it just spiraled worse each year. He found himself remembering those previous instances and increasing his anxiety all the way until lunch.
At lunch, Dylan managed to find Paul in the lunchroom, and began to voice his concerns. “Everybody hates me here,” Dylan said as the two of them sat at an otherwise empty table. “I’m sorry if I get you in trouble.”
“Why do they hate you?” Paul asked, between mouthfuls of spaghetti.
“Cause’ I cry. And, I’m fat, and cause I don’t like playing sports. And… I dunno.”
Paul considered the kid in front of him. He hadn’t really known a kid like Dylan before. The kid was certainly nerdy, it was clear his mom dressed him. And, sure, he was a bit chunky, and definitely a cry baby… Still, it was kinda neat that he had protected someone. He was still apprehensive about this town though, and even about Dylan. His parents thought a change of place might be good for Paul but Paul himself still wasn’t so sure.
Feeling uncomfortable, he shifted a little to the right, feeling a squishing sensation beneath him. “Dammit” Paul thought, outwardly working hard to keep any indication of something being wrong off his face.
“Does it smell like poop to you?” Dylan asked suddenly sniffing at the air.
“No” Paul replied and, as far as he was concerned, it was true. His parents complained frequently enough when it happened, but most of the time he didn’t really smell it when it happened, he just felt it when he moved. Still, he decided the most prudent course of action was to get the hell outta here before anyone noticed.
“I’m done,” Paul said suddenly, picking up his lunch tray and going over to the trash can, even though he was only half done. The load swayed slightly but mainly stuck to his butt cheeks as he walked. Paul appreciated that, it made the accident less visible. The teachers were already letting the kids go out to play, so Paul just headed back out into the field with their approval.
He’d not gotten far when he realized someone was following him.
“Wait up,” Dylan said, huffing. “I finished quick, we can hang out.”
“I wanna be alone.” Paul said stiffly, turning around to glare at Dylan, who immediately shrunk under his gaze.
“Okay,” Dylan said sadly, watching as Paul turned back around. Suddenly Dylan noticed something. The slight sag at the back of Paul’s pants, the way he had smelled poop before and a little bit of the smell now… Maybe he could help Paul in his own way.
“Paul?” Dylan ventured carefully,
“What?!” Paul shot back angrily.
“If you pooped your pants…” Dylan said, just loud enough so Paul could hear him, “I won’t tell, and I can show you where the nurse is.”
Paul looked Dylan up and down, several times. “Fine, show me.”
Dylan nodded and the two headed quietly off the play yard and down the corridors towards the administration offices for the elementary school.
“I come down here sometimes to keep the kids from finding me.” Dylan said as Paul walked next to him in silence. “The nurse is really nice, she’ll let you sit in her office if you want.”
“Hey Dylan,” The nurse said as Paul and Dylan walked into the infirmary.
“Hi Ms. Casey,” Dylan said back happily.
“I see you have a friend with you today?” Ms. Casey returned. Dylan nodded happily.
“I umm,” Paul stammered, trying to look around the room. “I can clean up myself, I just need a sink and stuff, I mean…”
“He pooped his pants.” Dylan said matter-of-factly.
“Oh dear,” Ms. Casey responded, “Should I call your parents?”
Paul just sighed, looking between Dylan and Ms. Casey. "No, I just, do you have some air freshner or a sink or something. Ms. Casey nodded, with a look of worry as she directed the nine year old to her restroom.
Paul emerged about fifteen minutes later, as lunch was nearing its end. Dylan and Ms. Casey were talking happily about Ms. Casey’s young child and how she had started preschool; Dylan adding his own input from his memories of preschool.
“I’m done.” Paul stated.
“You still smell like poop,” Dylan added, just as a notation of fact. Paul started to take offense and then realized if Dylan had meant to hurt his feelings, he could have done so much more easily.
“I can’t smell it.” Paul said, shrugging. Ms. Casey had already looked into the bathroom and was relieved to see it was relatively clean with the exception of a few splashes of water.
The two headed back to class, joining up quietly with the line that had formed after lunch. A few kids commented on the poop smell, but the source was never discovered.
They found out, after being called into the principal’s office that afternoon, that Dylan and Paul were to receive recess detention for the rest of the
week for picking on Tom. Dylan protested loudly but Paul just shrugged as if he was used to the injustice.
“So, how was your first day of school?” Mrs. Nailor asked his son as he hopped into the car.
“It was fine, I guess.” Paul said wistfully to his mother.
“Did you poop?” Mrs. Nailor added, disappointed as she caught hold of her son’s scent.
“Yeah,” Paul replied, ashamed, as he got out the garbage bag his mom kept in the car for him to sit on when he’d had an accident. This one wasn’t leaking through his jeans, but his mom made it clear he was to use the bag –ever- time.
“Paul, your father will be so upset. You went almost five days this time.” Mrs. Nailor said, shaking her head as she turned the car towards her elder son’s middle school.
“Look, can we just not tell dad?” Paul asked desperately. He was dreading the regular dressing down which would occur upon his father’s discovery of his accident.
“I can’t” His mother replied sternly, “There’s no secrets between your father and I”
Paul just sat there, feeling like the shit he felt in his pants until his brother got out of school and jumped in the car.
“What’s up?” His older brother Scott asked, thumping down on the seat next to his brother and wrapping his arm around him. Paul smiled in return. Scott never said a thing about the poop, even when they had shared a room and it stunk because of him. At least they had their own rooms now that they had moved houses. One less thing for Paul to have to feel bad about.
It was almost five o’clock by the time Mr. Nailor got home, and Paul was already starting to forget the annoyance of the day, relaxing and playing video games with his bro.
“So, you shit yourself on your first day of school?” Mr. Nailor said, disgusted as he walked into the living room. Paul tried to ignore the statement but his dad was soon standing in front of him, blocking his line of sight to the T.V. “Aren’t you disgusted with yourself?” He asked.
“I don’t feel it okay.” Paul said, throwing the controller onto the couch, “What do you want me to do!”
“Don’t you talk back to me.” Mr. Nailor yelled back, bearing over his nine year old son. “You’re nine fucking years old, I’ve taken you to the damn doctor. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“Fine!” Paul screamed back. “I don’t know what to do, okay?”
“Try using the toilet like a damn two year old!” His dad shouted back.
“I can’t” Paul screamed, feeling tears forming in his eyes. But he wouldn’t give his father the satisfaction, instead choosing to run out of the living room and back to his own, slamming the door behind him.
“Oh yeah, great job Frank.” Mrs. Nailor said, walking into the room, “That’ll really help Paul.”
“Stacy, what the heck do you want me to do?”
“I don’t know,” She shrugged, “But not that.” An uncomfortable look passed between the couple for a brief moment before Mr. Nailor broke the silence.
“Scott, do you know what’s wrong with him?” Mr. Nailor asked, looking at his eldest in desperation.
“I don’t think he can feel it, dad…” Scott said, but Mr. Nailor waved his hand dismissively.
“That’s bullshit.” Mr. Nailor declared, “The timing is too annoying, and he uses the toilet for days on end sometimes. It’s gotta be for attention or something.”
Paul stayed in his room the rest of the evening, dreading that this new town would be exactly like the last one he had been in.