He swallowed hard as the bus tottered down his block. He envisioned the yellow paint as mustard and his mind devoured the bus like a hot dog. Or, he thought, he could dress into his army fatigues, climb into the tallest tree, and fire a cannon. Metal would rain down on the earth and he would remain supreme. Alas, his herculean mind would not save him from his fate.
He heard his mother's quickening footsteps behind him and pictured her sauntering towards him in cowboy boots. Her spurs hissed like a rattle snake, and the brim of her hat hung so low, he could only see her darkened eyes.
"Who's messin' with my son," she spat and twirling two pistols in her hands, shot the tires of the bus and wrestled the driver.
Sadly, when she entered the room, she lost the cowboy act. She ran in with dopey bunny slippers and a brown paper bag in her hands.
"You almost forgot your lunch," she scolded and kissed him fiercely on the cheek. He suppressed a whimper while his stomach performed somersaults and tricks with his breakfast. The bus was coming; his fate was sealed.
All eyes were on him, prying his thoughts and judging his fear. He understood the odds were against him.
"One thousand to one," his friend lamented. Even kids that didn't know him were plotting his demise.
"Man, it may be a fatal blow to the rib."
"Or head," chimed in another. They were playing "pin the injury on the dummy." But what could he do? What could a skinny, 100 pound kid do when you're called out in middle school.
The boy in question, or he-man as some called him, was Gus Grinder. The eighth grader was carved out by Greek gods, the sons of wrestlers and linebackers. Dude was stacked with unnameable strength. He was a legend.
I told Andy all of this on his first day of classes. Poor kid was struggling to tie his shoelaces. His glasses were slipping off his face and he was sweating awful. Perhaps the new kid never bothered to listen.
Regardless, it didn't stop Andy from mouthing off to Gus. Gus was prime for another bully hurricane and was aiming towards me when Andy did the unthinkable.
"Hey, don't hurt him," Andy warned. "If you beat him up, I won't have any friends left." His humor didn't tickle Gus.
"All right, see me tomorrow at the playground punk." The whole school knew about the showdown and though we all thought Andy was stupid to show his face, we also admired him for being brave.
The kid was turning green before the big fight.
"Joe, I'm shaking in my shoes. I may even wet my pants. I'm so nervous."
"Then, why did you show up," I barked.
"I'm living on a prayer." Living on a prayer? For the skies to part and God's heavenly angels to save you? The kid was insane.
When the bells rang, the mob stormed the playground. Andy refrained from eating his lunch.
"What's the point? I'm going to puke it up anyway."
"You know you could bolt for the exits," I suggested. "I'll say you were sick and had to take off."
"Nah," he sighed. "I have to face this guy or he'll be on me for the rest of the year." I have to admit Andy wasn't all that stupid. He came prepared with a mouth guard and helmet. His attire prompted a lot of giggles.
"Just pray for me Joe," he whispered and walked his way to the center of the playground. His feet were turning into cement yet he managed to reach Gus without fainting.
Light began to glow from Andy's tiny frame. At first I mistook it for the glare of the sun. But nobody else seemed to notice his aura.
Gus swung his boulder arms at Andy's head missing him each time. Andy's light frame danced joyfully around large, rhinoceros Gus. But skipping and hopping in every direction, his foot slipped on a rock, and he fell on his knees.
Gus lifted his iron fist but Andy miraculously dodged him. Turning to smile at me, he nailed Gus Grinder below the belt. A seismic earthquake shook the ground when Gus collapsed on the pavement.
In triumph, Andy slew the giant living on a prayer.