For the sixth time since we read Aesop’s Fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” Derek Winstrop stood in the center of our elementary school playground during lunch and said he was going to kill himself.
He took out a gun, which looked real enough, and pointed it at his own head. When Mrs. Harris marched over to him to take it away, he pointed it at her and fired. Turned out to be a cap gun, but the loud bang was heard by everyone, even with Lincoln Elementary so close to a highway, and it caused Mrs. Harris to faint.
With the school placed on lockdown, we were forced into our fifth-grade classroom.
Karen Vigary, whose parents had just split up after a legendary food fight during a picnic gone wrong in Whimby Park, said it would’ve been neat to see Derek really do it, but with her red hair, freckled face, and orange hazel eyes, I called her the Devil. Others joined in teasing her about it.
Henry Gutierrez, who originally sat next to Tommy Finnegan, a pale, blue-eyed, rambling Jehovah’s Witness who preached the end was near until he got suspended for preaching in public school, thought maybe Tommy was right and this was a sign. He asked our teacher, Mr. Pipkin, if we should pray.
“He didn’t do anything but scare a teacher,” Karen Vigary said.
“I’ve never seen someone faint before. That was so neat,” Damien Palmiero said.
“Prayers are not allowed in school,” Mr. Pipkin said. He was grimacing as he said it, so I didn’t believe he meant it. “And the next person who comments about Mrs. Harris will stay after school.”
Charlie Martin, who always kept his head down and never talked to anyone, sat doodling graphic pictures of dead Dereks in all sorts of different ways, only adding color when he needed to show blood. He has long blond hair which hangs over his face, so no one even knows what he looks like. I snatched one of the drawings, stunned by how real they looked. Derek’s face was spot-on and totally ghoulish, but Charlie began crying.
Mr. Pipkin marched over to me. “Frank, what have you got there? Did you take something from Mr. Martin?”
Mr. Pipkin’s face went pale, and he folded the paper up and tucked it away. He grabbed Charlie’s pad from him. When things calmed down, he sent Charlie to the Principal’s office with a recommendation he be suspended along with Derek.
Valerie Channing, who has a crush on Damien, thought the whole thing was romantic. She said this while brushing her hair repeatedly like the Disney princess her parents have told her she is. However, Damien told her that was a stupid thing to think and stuck his tongue out at her. She remained undaunted and told everyone she’d win his love back. After all, that’s how romance works in Disney movies.
Carly Wasserman, who has ADHD, told a teacher that metal detectors were a waste of time because she found a book on school shootings, and nowadays guns could be printed by 3-D printers using all kinds of different material.
Lucy Chang, who could raise one eyebrow and always told the truth, said that if she had a gun, she wouldn’t use it to kill anyone. She would make a western-style mobile out of it, with cut-out designs tied to it to hang over her baby brother’s crib because when she wore her cowgirl outfit for Halloween, he giggled.
Our art teacher, Mr. Moss, who has long braids in his hair and wears crazy colored shirts, and likes to play Jimmy Hendrix during class, loved the idea and suggested we all come up with ways to turn things that could hurt people into better things. Mr. Pipkin found out, and soon after we had a new art teacher.
When Derek returned to school, he seemed happier than before. No one knew why. Karen thought he was just being the ‘boy who cried wolf’ all over again to get attention. He said that he was forced to see a psychiatrist, who made him play with puppets, and he got many lollipops. He said his parents spent time with him teaching him gun safety. They’re taking him hunting next weekend.
I wonder if I could go see a psychiatrist. I love lollipops.
* * *
The school board would meet soon after and agree to place metal detectors in the front of the school. Many parents pushed hard for it, and Mr. Pipkin agreed. Now we line up every day so a policeman named Mr. Don, who wears a black uniform with a utility belt like Batman, can unzip our backpacks. He’s told me several times he really likes my Ironman backpack. He always wanted to be a superhero so he could mash bad guys.
At that board meeting, Gus Martin, Charlie’s father, called Mr. Pipkin “cowardly twat” for suspending his son and threatened him and the school board members with a lawsuit. Charlie Martin was not welcomed back after that.
Before the end of the year, Mr. Pipkin had won a position on the school board for taking “prompt action in the face of timely threats” and keeping the school safe.
Just as that happened, Charlie Martin found his father’s .45 in his dad’s car and brought it into the school, where he accidentally shot Mr. Don and the school secretary. He’s going to get to play with lots of puppets in juvey, where they say he’s being held.
When I passed Charlie’s desk, I took the drawings because they might be worth something someday. He seemed like a talented artist.
Jonathan’s last short story was named honorable mention in the 52nd New Millennium Writers international fiction contest, and subsequently published by FabulaArgentea.com. Other writings have appeared in online magazines or journals such as The Front Porch Review, Carrier Pigeon Magazine, Loch Raven Review and the Jewish Literary Journal.
He grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, moved to England for a year when he was nine, and attended public, Jewish, and Catholic schools. Needless to say, he is confused about a lot of things. This confusion led him to write screenplays, plays, articles for fantasy sports publications and other small journals and magazines. He’s an avid reader, poker player, enjoys coaching his children’s soccer teams, and resides with his wife and boys in Sherman Oaks, California.
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Remedies”:
We usually avoid publishing stories on this topic, but author Jonathan Phillips surprised us with such a superb job of telling this powerful piece from an unexpected and innocent point of view that we could not ignore it. We hope you agree with our choice.