Saving Hascal's Horrors
“Guys,” Mike said through clenched teeth, “Mr. Mackey is coming over here.”
Mr. Mackey walked up to them. A dozen frowning kids followed behind him. Today, he wore a dirt brown suit and a candy cane striped tie. He might as well have been wearing a police uniform and carrying handcuffs. Jack motioned for Lisa to hand him his hacky sack, afraid that Mackey would take it. She passed it to him behind her back. The four of them stared at each other, afraid to break their circle. Their shoulders were tight, waiting for Mackey to bark at them.
“What are you four doing?” Mr. Mackey asked.
Nobody moved or dared to look at him.
Jack, with his back turned, said, “Nothing.”
“What?” Mr. Mackey barked.
Jack squeezed his lips together tight and didn’t answer.
“Turn around and face me.”
Jack wiped his smile from his face before turning around.
“Nothing,” he said again.
“Come with me, then. All of you.”
He continued past them, and they joined the group of recess prisoners.
“What did we do?” Corey whispered to Lisa.
Lisa looked back at Corey and shook her head.
Mr. Mackey led them to the edge of the field, and they lined up along the chain link fence. Behind the fence was a steep hill that dropped off into Red Leaf Woods. Many playground balls had flown over the fence and down the hill where they disappeared into the trees below. A few brave boys had jumped the fence to try to rescue the equipment, but they usually turned up empty handed and then were led straight to the curb as punishment. The hillside was long and steep, and you could break your neck if you lost your footing and fell down it. Mike looked behind him into the woods and was sure that Mr. Mackey would pick each of the kids up one by one and toss them over the hillside.
Mr. Mackey turned away from them and shooed away all of the others in that section of the field, telling them to either line up or find something else to do. Most of the kids scattered. A few brave kids backed up a few steps and then stuck around to see what he was going to do. Everyone was tense.
“Now,” he said, turning back to his line of prisoners, “when I point to you, count off by two’s.”
He started with a fifth grade girl with brown hair who peeped “one” while her friend next to her squeaked, “two.”
“Great,” Mike thought, “he’s going to separate us.”
“Three,” said the next kid, a small fourth-grader who wrong his hands nervously.
“No!” Mackey corrected, “One.”
“One,” the kid repeated.
He looked like he was going to cry.
Mike and Lisa were sent to the group on the left, and Jack and Corey went to the right.
“What’s next?” they all thought, “Demerits? Detention? Pushups?”
What he said next surprised them all.
“We’re going to play a game called…Red. Rover.”
…Jason’s hand shot up in the air, and he cried, “Mr. Peterson! Mike Hascal’s throwing food!”
Mike’s jaw dropped. Mr. Peterson made his way over to Mike’s table.
“Are you throwing food?” he asked.
“I…they were throwing food first!” Mike exclaimed.
“Was not! Stop lying, Mike,” Jason called behind him.
“I saw food flying,” said Mr. Peterson, “Why would he say it was you if he was the one throwing it?”
Mike couldn’t control himself. Mr. Peterson was calling him a liar. He couldn’t take anymore today, and he exploded.
“Because he knows no one will get him in trouble because his Mom’s the Vice Principal!”
“All right. Enough,” said Mr. Peterson with a red face, “Let’s go.”
Mike could tell that Mr. Peterson knew that Mike was right, but he was going to make Mike take the blame anyway. Mr. Peterson didn’t want to tell Vice Principal Creed that her son was causing trouble.
“It’s not his fault,” Corey said, in his innocent way as Mike stood up to leave, “He was just defending the girls.”
“He should know better,” said Mr. Peterson.
He lowered his bushy, gray eyebrows at Corey, “You don’t repeat bad behavior to stop others from doing it.”
Corey shut up at this. Just then, a large chunk of bread hit Mike on the back of the shoulder, bounced and hit the top of Corey’s head. They both flinched. Mike heard snickering behind them. Mr. Peterson didn’t seem to notice. Mike’s anger bubbled up again, and without thinking, he grabbed a handful of fries from his tray and launched them over the girls. They all screamed and ducked. The fries rained down on Jason’s table.
“Oh ho! You’re in trouble now,” Mark Masters cried from Jason’s table as the other boys all made “he’s in trouble” groans.
Jason was furious, and in plain sight, he threw his fries back at Mike. Corey jumped in and threw his empty apple sauce dish and milk carton. The girls joined in, throwing their empty garbage at Jason and his friends, who threw it back at them.
“Enough!” Mr. Peterson cried as more tables joined in.
The lunch room erupted into chaos. Kids picked up whatever food they had left on their plates and threw it: empty milk cartons, plastic spoons and forks, trays of apple sauce, whipping them in every direction. Bits of apple sauce, milk droplets, fruit juice and French fries rained down on the room. An uneaten chicken sandwich even flew across the room at one point, making everybody laugh and scream and throw even harder. There was food everywhere. No one was safe. This didn’t happen every day, and it might never happen again so everyone went for it. Even Mike was smiling as he got a few more throws in before Mr. Peterson grabbed him by the shoulder and held him still.
“That’s it!” Mr. Peterson screamed at the top of his lungs.
A few other teachers jumped in to help stop the food fight, but it was no use.
Mike was waiting for one of his feelings to appear. He was hoping that it would lead him to the location of Shawn’s body now. Maybe he could find it on his own. Then, this would all be over. He would solve the mystery for the Mackey family and save the shop for Julie.
Just then, Mike heard a voice from far away. He walked faster, and the voice grew closer, like it was echoing through the trees. He thought about the movie The Evil Dead with the ghosts flying through the woods to get to the main character, Ash. It freaked him out.
He panicked and began to run back the way he came. The path seemed to disappear in front of him. He turned and ran back towards the road, listening for the sound of the cars to let him know he was close. He tried to focus on that noise.
Then, he thought he heard a voice whisper, “Miiiiiiiiike…”
“Wahhhhh!” Mike screamed and, covering his ears, he ran as fast as he could.
Soon, Mike began to hear rain hitting the leaves on the trees. It started as a tap, tap, tap. The drizzle became steadier and began to hit the ground. Mike felt a few drops on his arms.
“Crap,” he said aloud, turning up his palms to catch the rain in his hands.
He sped up, reached a hill and began to climb. The steady drizzle turned into a downpour. The trees sheltered him at first, but as the rain became steadier, it began to soak him. His light gray hoodie became dark gray and heavy. The already soft ground became clumps of mud, and his tennis shoes sunk into each step. The hill wasn’t steep, but it became slippery fast. He also realized that his laces were untied. He was almost to the top of the hill, though, and they were too muddy to try to tie them now. He had to keep going. His steps became stomps as the mud became deeper and more slippery. It was like trudging up a snowy hill.
He was just a few steps from the top when he felt himself step on his laces. He tripped and fell forward onto his stomach. The hillside gave way, and he began to slide backwards. The water rushing down the hill created a muddy water slide, and Mike was sucked down, caking him in mud. He screamed, clawing at the ground. Twigs and leaves scratched his bare skin. He managed to flip onto his back just in time to see himself head straight for an opening in the ground where the white face of a pale, teenage boy was staring straight at him from inside. Mike cried aloud, and the face disappeared. Mike dropped his flashlight just before he slid into the cave, falling down into the darkness below.