Long Story: The Controversial Ending
I really didn’t want “Long Story” to have a dumb ending. As a reader of thrillers and science fiction/fantasy and mysteries, I hated the “cavalry to the rescue” endings or the “convenient coincident” conclusions. Even when I was reading books in high school, those felt lazy. I believed that if an author was going to put his (or her) main characters into tough situations, it was up to the author to devise clever ways to get the protagonists out.
Unfortunately, I had put Danny Dornan into an impossibly unsolvable situation. There was no way he was going to get out of this without either cavalry or coincidence. He might need both. If I was going to have a stupid ending, I might as well go all out.
My tenth grade English teacher Mr. Faggins (pronounced Fay-guns) had given us one day to write our stories, and I needed an ending. At least if my ending sucked, I could blame a deadline that had been too quick. I just hoped my classmates understood that as I read my story to them.
The Curse of the Curse Brothers
This was the situation. Joey Curse was holding me from behind, and I couldn’t squirm or fight my way out of his grip. Timmy Curse was directly in front of me about to punch me in the face. Tommy Curse stood behind Timmy and stomped my backpack with textbooks and homework into the mud. Johnny jumped up and down cackling.
As I closed my eyes and braced for pain, an ear piercing crack and a quick jolting flash knocked me off my feet. But my face, it was untouched. I couldn’t tell where I got hit. It was just an impact that pushed my entire body back. Joey fell back too and released his hold.
I pulled myself up and saw Timmy’s charred remains on the muddy ground. Tommy and Johnny stood in awe over the burnt body.
“He got hit by lightning!” Johnny exclaimed.
“And it didn’t touch the rest of us!” I announced, excited and relieved. “You know, the odds of this happening were astronomically low.”
I probably should have kept my mouth shut. Joey glared at me and pointed. “Get him!”
I was going to say, “Hey, this wasn’t my fault,” but I ran instead.
Timmy’s smoldering body hadn’t even cooled yet, and the remaining Curse brothers still wanted to beat me up. This was true brotherly love.
After a minute or two of straight-down-the-street running, I sprinted side-by-side next to an elementary school bus. The kids inside the bus recognized the situation and started cheering, but I don’t know if they were rooting for me to escape the Curse brothers or if they were hoping to see me get beat up.
As I paced the school bus with the Curse brothers a few yards behind me, I noticed we were getting close to railroad tracks. The bus would have to stop. This would be a good chance to change directions. I heard the squeal of bus brakes, and when I passed the hood of the bus, I gave myself a wide berth and swung myself hard to the left.
I continued my sprint to the opposite side of the street and looked back to see how the Curse brothers had handled my maneuver. As I turned, I heard a thunk and a splat. Then the bus came to a halt, but it was already halfway over the train tracks. The kids in the bus cheered again. The bus hadn’t made a complete stop like it was supposed to, and a Curse brother had gotten creamed. Whichever Curse brother it was had counted on the bus driver following the rules, which was kind of funny because the Curse brothers never followed the rules.
I expected the remaining two Curse brothers to beat up the bus driver, but then I saw the two survivors were Joey and Johnny. Johnny was ten, so he wouldn’t be much help against an adult. But me?
“We’re gonna kill you!” Joey yelled, waving his fist at me. I thought the fist wave meant that they’d wait until they went through the grieving process, but then they started running toward me. I think the fist waving was the Curse family’s grieving process.
It started to rain hard. Plus the wind was blowing against my face. It had to hurt the Curse brothers too, but they were persistent, screaming threats and profanity at me as they got closer and closer. My ribs ached. I couldn’t breathe. My legs felt like lead. I had to stop running, even if that meant getting killed.
I bent forward and gasped under a thick tree. The wind slanted in its downpour, but I stood against the trunk as protection. I saw the Curse brothers running against the wind to reach me. I braced myself to run and thought about it. I was tired of running. There were only two of them, and one of them was ten-years-old. They were as tired as I was. Still, they were probably angry about two dead brothers, and anger can make a beating even worse, so I decided make another run for it. If I ran for the tracks again, maybe I could get a train to hit them.
A whistling gust of wind blew through me past the tree trunk, and a loud lightning-like crack startled me, but it wasn’t lightning. A giant branch above me had snapped, and I watched it in slow motion fall behind me. Joey saw it too, and he also saw that he was in its path, but he couldn’t stop himself. We made eye contact as the branch plummeted onto his head. His lips blew out like he was about to cuss, and he shook his head, and then his body disappeared. All I could see were the branch and two feet sticking out.
Ten-year old Johnny, with a rock in his hand, stood behind his collapsed brother and the branch. He looked at the rock and at me, and then he threw the rock with all his might. The miniature missile whizzed past my head. It was a good throw. If it had hit me, it would have knocked me out. The way my luck was going, I expected it to bounce off a tree and ricochet back into Johnny’s face. But it landed harmlessly a few yards behind me.
Sometimes I’m slow at figuring things out. Johnny was a skinny ten-year old kid that I could beat up. He had hit my former girlfriend with a rock, and she broke up with me because of it. I had gotten beat up by his brothers because of him. I was going to fail the grading period because of him. As the anger built up inside me I came to this conclusion: Johnny Curse should not chase me; I should chase him.
I think we realized this at the same time because he turned and ran. I had to climb over the fallen branch, but I did it almost without noticing it. I was filled with adrenaline, my second wind, and each block I ran brought me a few yards closer to revenge. Johnny saw me closing in on him and turned between two houses and jumped a fence.
I’d get him now, I thought. I was stronger and faster and could leap fences more quickly than Johnny could. A couple back yards would be all I needed to catch him.
I almost caught him in that first back yard too. He was scrambling up the back fence to jump into the neighboring yard. I reached forward and was so close to knocking him off the fence, but then I heard a growling behind me. I should have thought of this. It was a stupid mistake. I should have known better.
A Doberman knocked me down from behind. The guard dog went for my face too. Teeth snapped inches away, the dog growling and wrestling me. Between my jacket and shirts, I had three layers of clothing protecting my arms and body, but those teeth still cut through. I elbowed the dog in the face, threw him back, and then jumped for the fence. The dog ripped at my left leg. His teeth cut through my calf, and I screamed. I yanked my foot up like it had hit a hot stove and pulled myself over the fence. The dog barked in its triumph. It had chased off the intruder and tasted the fresh delicacy of human blood.
Once I realized there was no new dog to attack me, I stayed on the soggy ground and rested. I couldn’t believe a Doberman had snuck up on me. And I couldn’t believe that I had been outsmarted by a Curse brother. That was the worst part of the whole thing.
A few minutes later I found my backpack a couple blocks away and what was left of my assignments. Papers were buried in the mud, and the backpack was torn by its zipper enough to be useless. All my textbooks were soaked. I’d have to pay for them. There was nothing I could do to salvage any of them. Wiping out the Curse brothers should have left me exhilarated, but instead, I was bitter. My life was ruined. Their defeat meant nothing to me. I grabbed a couple useless remnants as proof that I had at least tried to save my materials and cradled them as I sludged my way to school. There didn’t seem to be any point to going, but I did.
When I staggered into the school building, I dragged myself straight to the counselor’s office. I didn’t even bother with attendance and the mandatory late pass. I dropped myself into the counselor’s student chair without an invitation. She stared, probably surprised at my uncommon rudeness. My clothes were smelly with rain water and mud. My face was scratched and bitten. My sleeves were torn.
“Oh my… God,” she said. “What happened to you?”
“I’ll tell you everything,” I replied, taking a deep breath. “But I have to warn you… It’s a really… long story.”
When I finished reading my story aloud, the class booed. A couple students flipped me off. Some kid even threw a paper ball at me. For a tenth-grade English class that hated everything, it was actually a pretty favorable response.
To be continued in Long Story: Literary Analysis and Feedback.