By Endy Wright
Kevin Hannigan watched Cooper from a distance. Even though Cooper never said a word, the kid was still annoying to Kevin. And an easy target for some fun. Who would he tell? Kevin smiled at that thought. As he got closer, he saw that Cooper appeared to be asleep, an even better opportunity to frighten him. He took slow footsteps to creep in even closer.
Even though Cooper’s eyes were closed, his other senses had already told him someone was approaching. Reluctantly he opened his eyes to see who was coming to ruin his quiet solitude.
Cooper opened his eyes to see Kevin Hannigan creeping toward him. Kevin Hannigan. Cooper knew who he was, he knew what he did to other kids. Cooper stayed away from the mean-spirited bully. Kevin was busy sneaking up on him, but he wasn’t very good at it. He was a big kid for eighth grade. Bigger than Cooper. Bigger than everyone. But his size made it difficult for him to sneak. Just then Kevin looked up to see Cooper staring back at him. A brief look of disappointment spread across his face as he realized he would not be able to scare Cooper while he was napping. Undeterred, he smiled and began to walk toward him. Cooper recognized it for what it was.
“Hey Cooper, how you doing?” Kevin asked, waving. “You’ve come a long way into the woods. Do your handlers know you’re so far out?”
Cooper said nothing – as usual.
“Teachers really seem to like you,” Kevin said.
Cooper just stared back at him impassively. Kevin began to circle him. But as he got back in front of him, Kevin’s smile dropped. “The teachers like you, the lunch ladies like you. Hell, even the principal likes you. But guess what, Cooper? I don’t like you. And none of them are here to help you now.” Kevin grabbed hold of Cooper’s shirt, pulling it under his chin. “So do you know what’s going to happen now?”
Cooper did nothing. He stared back at Kevin with neither fear nor apprehension. Cooper’s lack of fear annoyed Kevin and he shook Cooper’s shirt so hard that it ripped. Cooper looked down at his torn shirt and then back at Kevin, but still did nothing.
“Hey, I ripped your shirt, retard. What are you going to do about it? If anyone ripped my shirt I would punch them in the face.” He paused for a moment, then, “Like this!”
Kevin’s fist flew out and struck Cooper in the mouth. Cooper did not respond. He hardly moved at all. Cooper’s reaction was not what Kevin had expected. He was used to kids falling down and crying, pleading with him to leave them alone. Not Cooper. His muted reaction unnerved him so he punched Cooper again, this time harder. No response. He punched him harder. Not only was there was no response, there was no blood. Cooper’s big blue eyes just stared back at him impassively and innocently.
Kevin pushed Cooper up against a tree and hit him in the stomach, almost as hard as he could. Cooper didn’t even flinch and Kevin felt his fist throb with pain. It was as if he had punched the tree instead of Cooper. He punched Cooper in the nose. Whack! Kevin knew he got him good because his hand and his wrist were aching from the punch. He looked down at it, opening and closing his fingers to ease the pain. His dad would be proud when he told him about it. Then he looked back at Cooper to see what sort of damage he had done. Cooper was just standing with his back against the tree, staring at him. There was no blood, not even a red mark.
Kevin pushed Cooper’s head hard against the tree preparing to hit him again. He grabbed hold of his chin so he could get a solid shot. Cooper just stood there staring back, now with a furrowed brow.
It was as his fist was traveling with all his strength to meet with Cooper’s face that Kevin felt his knee being kicked out from under him. The punch never landed. Instead, Kevin fell to the ground holding his knee. When he looked around Cooper was still standing against the tree. He had not moved, except now he was looking down at him. That’s when he felt the small shoe kick him in the ribs.
“Why don’t you pick on someone your own size? If you can find someone, that is.”
It was Coupe “Single” Daschelete who had spoken. Coupe had been on Kevin’s ass-kicking list for a long time. Trouble was the kid was too quick and too slippery and usually got away, even with that limp of his.
“I’m going to kick your ass, Single,” he said, getting up.
He walked toward Coupe and tried to grab him, but Coupe swiftly ducked under his grasp. Kevin swung wildly back at Coupe, but Coupe was already a pace away and smiling at Kevin.
“I’m gonna wear you out just by letting you chase me, Kevin. You’re big but S.L.O.W.”
Kevin was getting increasingly annoyed at Coupe who seemed to always be just out of reach. Again he lunged toward him, but Coupe quickly spun to his right and ended up standing behind him. Kevin quickly threw a blind mule kick toward Coupe. Coupe saw it coming and jumped over it. Kevin turned and advanced again. Coupe let him get within striking distance, still smiling as he closed. Kevin threw a quick punch to Coupe’s head, but Coupe slipped it again. Coupe was simply too quick.
“I can do this all day, Kevin, how about you? Why don’t we just call it a draw and leave each other alone?”
“Not a chance,” growled Kevin. He came after him again and Coupe spun away from Kevin’s grasp. This time, however, his lame foot struck a root and he tumbled to the ground. Kevin quickly grabbed hold of his hair. Coupe struggled, but Kevin’s grasp was secure. It was not long before Kevin pinned him.
“Okay, runt, where do you want it?” Kevin asked, raising his fist.
Coupe who had been struggling, stopped long enough to smile up at Kevin and say, “How about New York City?” and started laughing.
Coupe continued to laugh as Kevin’s fist came down and struck him in the eye and then the mouth. Coupe swallowed the pain, determined not to give him any satisfaction. He laughed as the fist came down a third time. But unlike with Cooper, blood began to run freely from Coupe’s mouth and nose. The next shot knocked out a tooth. Kevin was just too big for him.
He could feel Kevin firmly pinning his head to the ground. He could feel his large body on top of his, preventing him from getting up. He was in for a good beating from this much larger kid and he had resigned himself to the fact he would likely be beaten unconscious.
And then Kevin was gone.
He did not get up and walk away. He simply was not on top of him anymore. It was not as if Coupe did not know where Kevin had gone, either, because he could see him. Presently he was flying through the air toward a large maple tree about thirty feet away. Coupe watched as Kevin hit the ground with a satisfying thud and a grunt of pain. He fell awkwardly, but he wasted no time in getting back up and looking back in fear. He then ran back toward the school.
Coupe Daschelete stood up and watched him retreat. Then he turned around. Cooper was standing there staring back at him. Now there was a look of concern on Cooper’s face, most likely caused by the blood dribbling out of Coupe’s face. Then he felt it. His head began to swim and his knees buckled. He fell back down toward the ground. But before Coupe struck the cool earth, he felt an arm catching him around his waist and caught him.
Coupe offered a bloody smile. “Thanks, man. You can put me down. I think I got it now.”
Cooper put him down on the rock where he had recently been sitting.
“You did that, right?” continued Coupe. “You pulled him off me and then…threw him for, what? Thirty feet?”
Cooper nodded slowly.
“That’s pretty good. I wish you could teach me how to do that, it could improve my face situation a little bit.”
Coupe studied Cooper’s face. It not appear to have any mark at all. He then felt the cut above his own eye and the blood still trickling from his nose.
“How is it I look like this and you haven’t even got a mark? I mean I saw him landing shots, that’s why I ran in. I thought he was going to wreck you and I thought maybe together we could scare him off. But look at you. It’s like he missed each time – which he didn’t. And then, voom! You chucked him like a sack of spuds all the way over there.”
Coupe looked at Cooper knowing he would not get a response. But he patted Cooper on the shoulder as if he had answered and said, “It’s okay, bud, I understand. Thanks again. They call me Single, by the way…should you ever decide to use it.”
Then came the shocker.
“That’s not your real name.”
He could talk.