Updated: Feb 8
Nobody said school is easy
ey, there! This is your friendly neighborhood, Spider-Man, and it is time for you to wake up. Have a super day!”
“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, fights crime wherever he is. Can he save all his friends, from the ones that threaten their lives? Oh yes! Because he is Spider-Man.”
“It’s seven in the morning. Time to get up, champ!”
I’m glad to have this Spider-Man alarm clock. What better way to start the day than to be woken up by my favorite superhero. Today I’m happier than usual. Last night was fantastic! Now I’m sure my dream will come true soon. It makes me feel super excited. I have so much energy that I stand up on the bed and start dancing with the rhythm of the Spider-Man song that has started playing. Then I take a big leap from the bed and begin to take the clothes I’m going to wear out of the closet. My mommy knocks on the door.
“Jaeden, are you awake?”
“Okay. Be down in ten minutes.”
She always knocks on the door a few minutes after my alarm clock sounds to make sure I’m already awake. I used to have another alarm clock that it didn’t wake me up. When Mommy entered the room and noticed that I wasn’t awake, she freaked out. And then Daddy freaked out too because we were late for school.
But now it’s impossible that I don’t wake up with the beautiful Spider-Man song. I love it! Who does not love Spidey? Especially when it’s played by the great Danny Williams. He is super famous and everybody loves him. I like him a lot. I wish I could be as awesome as him.
Spidey is my favorite superhero because I can identify with him. There are times that I think I would perfectly fit into his character; a superhero who looks like a child, goes to school, has problems talking to girls and needs to watch his back because bullies are always bothering him.
That’s probably what I hate most about school. The bullies. They think they’re better than everyone and that they have the right to bother anyone they want. I would love Spider-Man to come to life and kick their stinky asses.
I quickly get dressed and go to the kitchen for breakfast. As soon as my little dog, Candy sees me, she wags her tail and comes running towards me. She lies down on the floor so I can tickle her tummy.
“Who’s a good girl? Who’s a good girl?”
Daddy hasn’t noticed me yet because his back is to the kitchen door. He’s sitting at the table, drinking coffee from the yellow cup that I gave him on his last birthday. ‘World’s Greatest Daddy’ is written on the side, along with has some drawings I made with markers of different colors. I take a few steps in silence and surprise him by giving him a hug.
His cheeks inflate like a pufferfish to avoid spitting out his coffee. Daddy puts the yellow cup back on the table and turns to face me with a big smile. He pulls me over to him and gives me a hug.
“Jaeden!” he says, a little surprised. “I didn’t hear you coming. You totally surprised me!”
“It’s because I’m a ninja! I move in the shadows so I can’t be seen.”
“So, you are not going to say hello, ninja?” Mommy asks. I don’t know what she’s preparing in the pan. But it smells pretty delicious.
I approach her and give her a hug.
“Hi, sweetheart!” She smiles at me and gives me a kiss on the forehead.
“What are you cooking?” I ask, trying to look into the pan.
“Your favorite meal. Eggs with bacon and vegetables,” she says, flipping over the food in the pan. “And fresh orange juice.”
What a delicious way to start the day.
“Are you still excited about having launched the rocket?” Daddy asks.
“Yes! It was incredible!” I say, sitting at the table next to him.
“You and Wade worked very hard to build that rocket,” Mommy says.
“Are you going to tell us why you decided to build a rocket?” Daddy asks.
When you blow out the candles of your birthday cake and make a wish, you are not supposed to tell everyone what you asked for, because your dream won’t come true. This is the same. I can’t tell them the real reason I decided to do it.
“Just for fun!” I say, smiling.
It takes Mommy a few minutes to finish preparing breakfast. Then she puts the plates in front of us on the table. The two plates have smiley faces formed by two eggs that are the eyes, some strips of bacon that are the mouth, some broccoli that is the hair, and finally two little peas that are the nose.
“It smells delicious, Lorraine!” Daddy says delightedly.
“You never get tired of surprising us, Mommy!”
“I know,” Mommy says, looking at us smiling. “I made it special for both of you. For the two most important people in my life.”
“We are very fortunate to have you in our lives. Isn’t that right, Jaeden?” Daddy says, looking at me.
“Yes. Thank you, Mommy! You’re the best.”
I’m about to start eating when suddenly she stops my hand.
“Did you wash your hands after you tickled Candy?”
I shake my head.
She stares at me for a few seconds like if she is thinking about what she is going to say to me.
“Now I see why you’ve been sick lately.” She takes a deep breath and takes my face in her hands. “Honey, you have to be more careful. We have told you that you need to wash your hands before you eat,” she says, very softly. “Otherwise, you’ll keep feeling sick. And I’m sure you don’t like being sick, right?”
I shake my head.
“And please don’t step in the flowers again. All of them are destroyed. You know how much I like to see our garden bloom. Otherwise you know what will happen to you…”
Mommy’s face now looks as if she wants to cause mischief. It’s too late when I realize what she is about to do. She raises my arms and holds them tight while she tickles my armpits. And almost immediately Daddy joins forces with her and does the same. I immediately crack up.
How I love our mornings.
I quickly go to the bathroom to wash my hands and then return to breakfast.
I’d been sure I could eat all of the delicious meal Mommy had prepared for us, but I barely eat half. So Daddy ate the rest. I haven’t had much of an appetite. I’m not sure what is going on with me. Sometimes I don’t feel very well. I suppose that it is because I’m about to become a big boy.
I go to my bathroom to brush my teeth, then I slip my shoes on, grab my Spider-Man backpack, and go to the living room where Daddy is waiting to take me to school. I say goodbye to Mommy and Candy and get in the car that is parked in the driveway. It’s an old black Volvo that, for as long as I can remember, Daddy has always struggled to start. Sometimes it takes longer than other times.
Daddy turns the key a lot, but the car doesn’t start. There is a weak sound that comes from the engine. It seems like it is about to start, but then it dies.
“Why is it always difficult to start the car?” I ask curiously. “Other cars start on the first try.”
“Because there is a problem with the engine,” Daddy says without looking at me. He keeps trying to turn on the car.
“Why don’t you take it to a mechanic?”
“Because it’s not cheap. Besides, there are more important priorities.”
“Why you don’t ask Grandpa Frank to fix it?”
Daddy leans back in his seat and laughs. He looks at me in the rearview mirror, raising his eyebrows. “Oh, you know how he is. He is too busy to help others. It’s just not in him to do good things for other people.”
Daddy keeps trying to turn on the car, but this time it seems an impossible mission. He leans his head on the steering wheel, takes a deep breath, and then mumbles the prohibited word that starts with f.
“Guys! Do you want me to call for a cab?” Mommy yells at us from the kitchen window.
“No! Lorraine, I can do it...” Daddy says, not loudly.
“Are you sure? This time is taking a little longer. I don’t want you to miss school and work.”
Daddy starts to look impatient.
“Trust me. I’m sure it’s about to start.”
Daddy turns the key quickly, and the car finally starts.
“Ha! I told you.”
Mommy starts to applaud.
“Have a good day! I love you both!”
Just in time. It seems that we are going to be on time for school and work. We live on the outskirts of the city and sometimes there’s a lot of traffic to get to school. Sometimes it takes us between twenty to thirty minutes. I start school at eight fifteen. And Daddy starts at nine. So he has enough time to get to his work on the other side of the city.
Time flies when we are in the car because Daddy always puts a David Bowie CD on and we sing the songs out loud all way to school. We always have a really good time together.
When we arrive at school, Daddy pulls over right in front of the main entrance where all the parents leave their kids. He gets out of the car, opens the door for me, and helps me get out. Then he kisses the top of my head, and we give each other a big bear hug.
“Have a great day, Jaeden! Take care of yourself.”
My school is far from home because my mommy thought that this was the best place to start kindergarten. Unlike the other schools that were near home, everybody here had to be the same age to start school. We all were five-years-old, while in other schools, most kids were about to start kindergarten at the age of six.
Mommy said it could be a problem for me to be surrounded by older kids. So, she and Daddy decided to enroll me in this public elementary school where I wouldn’t have issues with the other kids. This is where I met my best friends, Wade and Laura.
I’m heading to classroom sixteen for my English class. I’m walking through the corridors of the third and fourth grade. This is my favorite place in the school because everything is so colorful. The lockers seem to be a rainbow, and there are murals on the walls, that we, the fourth graders, painted at the beginning of the school year. I drew my mommy and daddy. We are all holding our hands. And behind us, Spider-Man is hanging upside down and waving.
Unlike here, the corridors of the sixth and seventh grade are boring. Everything is black and gray. It seems like you are in an imperial base from Star Wars.
Suddenly, someone puts his arm around me and pulls me towards him.
“Look who we have here. It’s my friend Jaeden Phillips. I was looking for you,” Kevin the bully says.
“Leave me alone, Kevin!”
I try to get away from him, but he holds me tightly. Then his face gets very close to mine as if he is about to whisper a secret in my ear.
“How are you not ashamed to come to school in that piece of junk your dad drives?” he whispers in my ear, mockingly.
Finally I manage to escape him. I start walking faster with my face down, pretending I didn’t hear him, but he keeps walking by my side saying bad things to me.
“I’m surprised that the cops haven’t taken that old and ugly car yet. It looks like a chimney because it lets out a huge black cloud each time it moves,” he says, laughing in my face.
I try to run, but his friends cut me off.
“Take it easy, buddy,” Kevin says behind me. “We just want to talk. That’s all. Isn’t that right, guys?”
Kevin is always accompanied by Big Billy, Randall, and Santiago. They form the gang that bullies almost all the kids of the fourth and fifth grade.
My heart is beating very fast and my hands don’t stop sweating. I start to look everywhere in hope that someone will help me. But everyone keeps walking with their faces down.
“Nobody’s going to help you, you know why?” Kevin says between giggles. “Because they are all scared of us. It’s not worth rescuing you.”
His friends start surrounding me until I’m trapped in the middle of a circle. Kevin looks me in the eye and starts walking slowly towards me. There is an evil look on his face that makes it seem like I’m looking at a snake. I begin to back up until I reach the red lockers on the wall. Kevin stops when he is very close to me. I can even hear his breathing. Suddenly, he hits the lockers with his fist and screams at the same time while he looks at me with the ugliest face I have ever seen in my life.
His friends start laughing out loud.
“He looks like he’s seen a ghost!” Randall says.
My legs are trembling as if I was freezing in the cold of the winter. I don’t know what to do. I wish my mommy could be here to protect me.
“You know what will happen to you if you say a word to anyone. Right?” Kevin says, very calmly.
I immediately nod.
“Where’s my money?” He holds out his hand without looking away from me.
I quickly start looking for my money in my backpack, but my hand does not stop trembling. I finally find a few one-dollar bills and some coins and I immediately give them to Kevin.
“Good boy.” He pats me on the shoulder and smiles. “I think I’m starting to like you, Jaeden. You always pay on time. Maybe if the others were like you, I wouldn’t have to do bad things to them.”
My heart is beating so fast that it seems it will escape my chest at any moment.
“Hey, it’s all okay. I’m not going to bother you for the rest of the week. Actually, I can’t promise you that. It all depends on my mood,” Kevin says, laughing.
Suddenly I start to feel anger. I don’t know why. This is something I have never felt before around Kevin, but I’m fed up that he always does the same thing and nobody ever does anything about it.
“What? Why are you looking at me like that? Is there something you want to tell me?” Kevin says, challenging me.
I would love to tell Kevin that his breath smells like trash, but I don’t dare say it to him. I’m still afraid of him.
“Kevin....” Big Billy says.
“Go ahead, say it! I’m sure you would like to tell me something.”
He turns to look furiously at big Billy.
“Miss Kathy is getting closer,” he says, pointing his finger at her.
Miss Kathy begins to approach us. She is walking very quickly and doesn’t take her eyes from Kevin. The sound of her heels rumbles along the corridor each time she takes a step. She looks angry.
Unexpectedly, Kevin hugs me as if we were best friends.
“Thank you very much, my dear friend, Jaeden!” he says out loud. “I don’t know what I would do without you!”
Miss Kathy stands in front of us with her arms crossed and does not stop looking at Kevin.
“Good morning, Miss Kathy!” Kevin says, very kindly. “What a beautiful day, don’t you think?”
“What are you doing to Jaeden?” Miss Kathy says angrily. She keeps staring at him, her eyes very serious.
Kevin shakes his head emphatically. “Nothing! I swear!” He quickly puts his hand next to his heart. “I’m just thanking my friend for helping me with my science project. Isn’t that right guys?”
Miss Kathy looks like she is about to launch fire from her nose. She looks furious. But when she turns to look at me, her face totally changes. She smiles very kindly at me. Miss Kathy seems like an angel who has come to rescue me.
“Are you okay, Jaeden?” she asks very softly.
She waves her hand for me to go to her, so I walk slowly towards her, with my head down. Then she stares furiously at Randall and his friends.
“It’s time for you to go to your classrooms! Hurry up!” she snaps, without taking her angry look from them.
They quickly leave, terrified, but not Kevin. He looks calmer. He waves his hand and smiles at me.
“See you in the classroom, my friend.”
When they leave, Miss Kathy kneels down in front of me. She takes me by the shoulders and looks me in the eye.
“Did they do something to you?”
I shake my head.
“Are you sure? You know you can trust me.”
She stands up and looks at me with love like my mommy and daddy do.
“I will take you to your classroom,” she says, holding out her hand. “Come on.”
I hold her hand and we start walking together.
Okay, I admit it. School has never been easy. Especially because of the bullies that are always trying to make everyone’s life impossible. This school year has been difficult because of Kevin. He was not supposed to be in fourth grade with us. He’s twelve and Mommy has told me he has repeated the grade for three consecutive years. I don’t understand why he is still here. He’s the dumbest person I’ve ever met. He always fails all the classes.
Since I started fourth grade, he has always been asking me for money in exchange for not bothering me. But even though I give him my money, he still does it all the time.
Sometimes the teachers see him bothering me or any other kid, and they take him to the principal’s office. I’m pretty sure he is on the blacklist of every single teacher at this school. He’s been suspended on many occasions, and then for the next days he manages to behave, but soon he’s back to his old self.
There have been a few who have dared to face Kevin, but all of them have fallen while trying. He messes with almost everyone, except the popular kids. They are untouchable. I think the advantages that he has over all of us is that he’s the tallest kids in fourth grade, he is older than the rest of us and also because he is followed everywhere by his gang of bullies.
I don’t think anybody at school has ever seen his dad. There are rumors that he is in jail. But nobody knows for sure. The only thing everyone knows is that he has an older brother and that his mom works in a butcher shop. They always wear dark clothes and have the same angry faces all the time. I think that is the only thing they have in common because Kevin and his brother are skinny and his mom is big and fat.
I’ve got to say that today, for the first time, I’d felt anger when I was in front of him. All this time I have feared him. But now I’m tired that he always does the same thing. But I’m afraid to say something that might make him angry. There have been times that kids have said things to him, and he has punched them. The worst thing of all is that we have almost all our classes together. I wish he would disappear forever.
“Here we are,” Miss Kathy says.
“Thank you,” I say, looking down at the yellow floor.
“Your welcome, Jaeden.” She takes my chin in her hands and stares into my eyes. “And remember, if Kevin and his friends are bothering you, don’t think twice about coming to tell me.”
I nod without looking at her. I enter the classroom and see from a distance that Kevin doesn’t stop looking at me. I walk with my head down to my table in the middle of the classroom and sit down.
“Aren’t you going to say hello, Jaeden?” Wade asks from the seat behind mine.
“Oh. Wade, Laura. I’m sorry,” I say turning around in my seat. “I didn’t see you.”
“Is everything okay?” Laura asks. She’s sitting in the seat next to mine.
“I was telling Laura about the rocket we launched yesterday. She can’t believe it reached the sky,” Wade says.
“And not only the sky, but it also touched the stars! It was incredible!” I say.
“Really?” Laura asks, amazed. “Oh, I wish I could have come to your house. There was a boring family reunion that my parents and I couldn’t miss.”
“I had one of the best days of my life!” Wade says excitedly. “My parents and I went for dinner at Jaeden’s. Jaeden and I played video games for a while, and then we worked on the last details of the rocket. It wouldn’t have been possible to launch the rocket without your dad’s help, Jaeden. The mechanism he made worked perfectly!”
“Oh yeah! Before you and your family arrived, Daddy helped me to create it. I still don’t understand how it works exactly, but the idea he had that the rocket would be released when we pulled the strings was amazing!”
“It flew so high that for a couple minutes we couldn’t see it. Then we saw it falling with the parachute, thanks to the light of the small glow sticks we put on it. It landed a block away. But we got it back!”
“Our dreams will finally come true!” I say.
“Yeah!” Wade says with the same excitement and we high-five each other.
“My dream of living in a mansion will finally come true!” Wade says, smiling ear to ear. “And I will have a butler just like Bruce Wayne has, and I will have a little zoo in my backyard full of ostriches that I will ride, and the garage will be full of sports cars, and I will have a huge play room full of video games and toys!”
“And I’m sure my dream will come true soon too!”
“Why would your dreams come true?” Laura asks, looking curiously at both of us.
“Because my mommy told me that the stars is where dreams are,” I say. “And if you put into practice the four virtues in everything you do, and work hard, then you will fly so high that you will reach the stars and then all your dreams will come true!”
“And what are the four virtues?” Laura asks me.
“Perseverance, passion, faith, and hope.”
Laura remains silent for a few moments while she strokes her chin as if she is thinking about something.
“Are you sure you need to do that to make your dream come true?” she asks. “Why you don’t ask Santa Claus to give you what you want. Or why don’t you look for Aladdin’s magic lamp?”
“Why do girls have to question everything?” Wade says, shaking his head. “If we want to ask Santa Claus to make our dreams come true we’ll need to wait ’til December! Besides, Aladdin’s magic lamp is in Asia! We can’t get there! Duh!”
“What you say makes no sense!” Laura kind of frowns. “If you just reach the stars, suddenly all your dreams will come true?”
Wade and I turn to look at each other and then nod.
“Ah! Why are boys so brainless?” Laura says impatiently. “Look, nothing special is going to happen to you, nor will your dreams suddenly come true. That’s impossible and will never happen.”
“Just because you are a genius kid doesn’t mean you know everything,” Wade says to Laura in his accusing voice.
“When have you seen someone making his dream come true just by launching a rocket to stars? Nothing like that has ever happened before and nothing like that will ever happen.”
“But we worked really hard to make the rocket, and we also put into practice the four virtues,” I say.
“You have high hopes in a fantasy that will never come true.”
“It will come true! I’m sure about it.”
“You are just jealous that we launched our rocket and you have not,” Wade teases.
Someone is making a loud noise with an eraser. Kevin is probably bothering someone. I like to watch whenever Wade and Laura are discussing something. Sometimes it makes me laugh, but I quickly cover my mouth so they don’t notice.
Laura is the smartest girl I’ve ever met. She is very kind, but sometimes she feels that she knows everything. Wade may not be as smart as Laura, but when he has the opportunity, he says the opposite to everything she says. Luckily they never fight for real.
“I’m not jealous, Wade! That doesn’t make any sense. Why will everything you dreamed of suddenly come true after launching a rocket to the stars? Nobody has ever done that before. It would be easier to ask to Santa Claus for whatever you want.”
The noise with the eraser is becoming even louder.
“That’s why astronauts go to space!” Wade says. “To reach the stars and make their dreams come true! Duh!”
“Don’t be dumb, Wade,” Laura says. “That’s not true.”
“Yes, it’s true!”
“No, it’s not!”
“Kids!” Someone yells with all his might and Wade and Laura quickly fall silent.
It’s Professor Mike, the English teacher. He is facing the class with his Donald Duck angry face, as always.
“If you’re not interested in taking class, then go to the cafeteria and talk about anything you want. You are here to learn!” He hits the chalkboard so hard that I’m sure the sound is heard in all the school.
Now everyone has their eyes down. No one dares to look him in the eye. A few moments later, he takes a deep breath and begins to look a little calmer. He turns around and begins writing on the chalkboard.
“Open your books to page sixty-four,” Professor Mike says, his voice still angry.
This is the most boring class in school. This teacher is like the devil. He can get very mad in the blink of an eye. No one dares behave badly in front of him. Not even Kevin and his friends. They always remain in silence at the back of the classroom.
“And what is your dream, Jaeden?” Laura asks, quietly.
“Sorry, but I can’t tell you,” I say, quietly too.
“Is it a secret?”
“It’s more than a secret. If I tell you, then my dream will not come true.”
“Silence!” Professor Mike yells.
He must be the most terrifying teacher in this school. He is in his mid-forties and is bald as my Grandpa Frank, but Mike is shorter and is always wearing a brown suit with a red tie. I wonder if they are his only clothes.