The Devastator

by Peter Fodey

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(.....ALBERT SHOCKNER SLOWLY WRAPPED THE NECKTIE AROUND HIS MASSIVE FINGERS AND SQUEEZED. HE PUT FORTH LITTLE EFFORT IN PULLING THE SCRAWNY SALESMAN TO WITHIN AN INCH OF HIS STONY STARE.

"I TOLD YOU I WASN'T INTERESTED, FUCKER."

THE SALESMAN, WHO REEKED OF SHIFTINESS AND DECEPTION, TREMBLED IN HIS PINSTRIPED SUIT. "LOOK, SIR, I'LL JUST BE ON MY WAY THEN. DIDN'T MEAN TO BE A BOTHER."

ALBERT TIGHTENED HIS GRIP, FORCING THE SLIMY LITTLE RUNT TO STAND ON HIS TOE TIPS. THE PUNY PEDDLER'S POCKMARKED FACE TURNED TO RED AS ALBERT'S HOT BREATH SEARED HIS NOSTRILS.

"THAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH YOU SALES PRICKS," SPOKE MR. SHOCKNER WITH DISTURBING CALMNESS. "IT'S YOUR JOB TO BE A BOTHER."

THE SALESMAN SWALLOWED HARD, HIS EYES TAKING IN THE BEAR-LIKE FEATURES OF ALBERT SHOCKNER. HE DIDN'T GIVE A GOOD GODDAMN ABOUT SELLING THIS MAN A VACUUM ANYMORE. HE SIMPLY WANTED OUT OF THIS IN ONE PIECE.

"I GUESS LAST WEEK'S WARNING WASN'T ENOUGH, YOU LITTLE TWERP." ALBERT'S LIPS MOVED EVER SO GENTLY UNDER HIS COARSE AND CHEESY MOUSTACHE. HIS STEEL EYES BURNED BEHIND THICK, HORN-RIMMED GLASSES. " MAYBE A DIFFERENT BRAND OF WARNING IS WHAT YOU NEED."

THE SALESMAN BEGAN TO WHIMPER. BEFORE ANYTHING COHERENT COULD EXIT HIS MOUTH, HE BECAME AIRBORNE, LEGS AND ARMS KICKING WILDLY. HE HIT THE GROUND HARD, WITH AN AUDIBLE THUD. WINDED, HE STARED FROM HIS BACK AT SHOCKNER'S DOORSTEP, SUDDENLY FIFTEEN FEET AWAY. ALBERT STEPPED DOWN AND APPROACHED THE STUNNED LITTLE MAN.

"PLEASE, SIR. NO!!!"

ALBERT REACHED DOWN AND GRABBED A HEALTHY HANDFUL OF GREASY HAIR. YANKING UPWARD, HE TORE OUT A FEW CLUMPS OF BLOODY SCALP AS THE SALESMAN JERKED FORWARD.

"I BEG OF YOU...," CAME THE FORCED WORDS. THE LITTLE MAN'S KNEES BUCKLED, ALBERT'S FIRM GRIP ON HIS LOCKS THE ONLY THING HOLDING HIM UPRIGHT. BEFORE ANOTHER PLEA COULD ESCAPE, ALBERT'S HAM-SIZED FIST BURIED INTO THE SOLAR PLEXUS, A SLEDGEHAMMER INTO A PILLOW. WHAT FEW GASPS OF OXYGEN THAT HAD REMAINED IN THE SALESMAN WERE INSTANTLY KNOCKED INTO OBLIVION. EYES BULGING LIKE APPLES, THE LITTLE MAN'S HEAD SLUMPED, HIS BODY TOPPLING OVER AS ALBERT'S GRIP WAS RELEASED. ON HIS HANDS AND KNEES, THE SALESMAN LOOKED UP JUST IN TIME TO SEE THE KNUCKLES - THE IRON-HARD KNUCKLES OF MR. ALBERT SHOCKNER - ARCING THROUGH THE AIR LIKE A SOFTBALL PITCHER'S AND EXPLODING ONTO THE LITTLE MAN'S JAW, OBLITERATING MANY YEARS OF DENTAL UPKEEP. THE SALESMAN SAW A CARTOON SHOWER OF STARS, AS HIS BRAIN SLAMMED INTO THE INNER WALLS OF HIS SKULL, FOREVER BRUISED BY.....)

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"What have I told you about this, young Rogers?" Mr. Grant Phillips, geometry teacher and all-round miserable bastard, tore the rough manuscript from the desk of thirteen-year-old Billy Rogers. Billy was snatched away from his fantasy world. His Paper-Mate pen, a flurry of activity for the past ten minutes, left and long and scraggly line from his last completed word to the edge of the paper. Mr. Phillips held up the sheet, eyeing it, then Billy. "You know how I feel about this trash of yours," he fumed. "Especially in my classroom."

Billy stared blankly at his desk-top, his classmates giggling under their collective stare. They were used to this, as was Billy, and found terrific entertainment in having their dull lesson interrupted by a teacher/student conflict, particularly the ones involving 'Weird Billy', or 'Silly Billy', as his boring peers often referred to him. Billy's hunched posture appeared to be one of shame and embarrassment before the accusing scrutiny of Mr. Phillips. It was, in fact, concealing a scalding and bitter rage. It was his rage reserved for pen and paper, the pen and paper that had been so rudely torn from his preferred world.

Mr. Phillips, who seemed to find perverse joy in these confrontations, challenged Billy. "Have you been listening to a single thing I've been teaching today, Mr. Rogers?"

"Yes, sir," came the shy words from the sickly-looking teenager.

"Well then," Phillips smiled that shit-eating grin of his. "Why don't you tell the class what an isoceles triangle is."

Dead silence swept over the room as teacher and students alike awaited the inevitable stock reply from Billy Rogers.

"I don't know," he stated, bashfully, to a sudden burst of laughter from the other kids. Billy hated these moments and he hated geometry. As far as he was concerned, his own knowledge of mathematics was sufficient. There were books at home, scads of them, that he could consult at any given time. Geometry was but a mere drop in the bucket of unlimited information left behind in his late father's library. Dr. Frank Rogers' collection had allowed his son to conduct his own specialized schooling, acting as both instructor and pupil.

"You don't know," stated Mr. Phillips, disgustedly. "Maybe if you didn't spend so much time in bye-bye land, you would." The classroom erupted again with hilarious laughter as Billy slid deeper into his seat. The tall and lanky Phillips was getting into a groove. "If you devoted just a fraction of the energy that you put into these foolish ramblings into the subject at hand, you could be a geometric genius."

"Yes, sir," agreed Billy, his mind's eye perfectly visualizing an isoceles triangle, the kind with two sides of an equal length.

Mr. Phillips held on to the unfinished story, turning away and depositing it in the top drawer of his desk by the chalkboard. Billy was relieved by this, having feared it would end up in the wastebasket. Now, there was a glimmer of hope that Phillips would return it to him, following class. That would save Billy the hassle of re-doing it later at home, trying desperately to recapture the mood he felt he had begun to master. His 'Devastator' series, featuring Albert Shockner, was getting better with each installment, and today's episode was shaping up to be the best yet. That was, of course, until the asshole named Grant Phillips had so rudely intervened. Billy loathed that the most, having his train of thought derailed. Now he would have to rekindle his creative fire, later on.

Derek Bramshot, the fair-haired dreamboy of North Lake Junior High, stared at Billy from two rows over. "Hey, Weird Billy," he snickered, with peer-approved confidence. "Get a life." Two healthy-chested young ladies joined Derek Bramshot in his giggling. Billy could feel his face going flush.

"By the way, Mr. Rogers," the voice of Phillips cut through the banter. "I'd like you to stick around after the bell for a little quiz. I'm curious as to just how much attention you really are paying."

Billy slid into the deepest regions of his chair. "Yes, sir." How he ached to complete his story.

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The bell that signalled the end of another long day echoed throughout North Lake Junior High at exactly 3:05 p.m. Mr. Phillips' geometry students rose from their seats and began the anxious shuffle out the door. Billy Rogers sat motionless at his desk, an empty feeling growling in the pit of his stomach. He was well aware of the lingering stares that fell upon him as his whispering classmates eventually vanished into the school halls.

Billy stared forward as the only other person left in the room, his nemesis, quietly picked up a piece of chalk and began to write on the dusty green board. Mr. Phillips printed out Billy's first and last names in bold, block letters.

"Billy Rogers," he spoke. "What does that name mean to you, young man?"

"I don't understand, sir."

"I thought not," said Phillips, replacing the piece of chalk on the thin ledge under the blackboard. "Is this not who you are?"

Billy hated questions worded like that. "Of course that is who I am, sir."

"Are you sure about that, Mr. Rogers? I'm beginning to think you aren't." Billy appeared puzzled, though he was not. Phillips strolled slowly down the aisle toward him, his eyes surveying the dents and nicks on the various desktops. "Are you sure your name isn't really Albert Shockner? You know, the big fellow with the moustache and glasses. Likes to maim people."

Billy listened with interest to this approach. It seemed Phillips fancied himself an amateur psychologist.

"I'm sorry for writing stories during class, sir," lied Billy. "I know it is rude and I will not do it anymore."

"I've heard that before," replied the balding teacher. "So have some of your other instructors. Quite frankly, Billy, it's gone beyond the point of just being rude." The pale boy looked on. "Quite frankly, son, it's gotten to the point of serious concern."

That was a laugh, thought Billy. The lecture that must be coming next would surely be a long and tedious one. Instead, Phillips walked back to his own desk and whipped open the top drawer. He removed a small stack of papers, of various colors and sizes, and dropped them onto the surface of the desk. He stared down at them briefly, then returned his eyes to his student.

"I've taken the liberty of keeping your confiscated works and reading them," stated Phillips, preparing to critique Billy's past semester of creative destruction. "I must say, Mr. Rogers, you certainly have a flare for detail."

Billy wished this asshole would get on with it.

"Some of your other teachers haven given me their collections as well." Phillips leafed casually through a few of them. Billy hadn't realized just how prolific his scribblings had been. And these were just the ones he had gotten nailed with - some damn good stuff, if he could rightly recall.

"I've read all of it, Billy. Every sick word." He paused. "I feel, perhaps, that you should seek some form of psychiatric aid, or at least have a chat with Mr. Boever."

Doug Boever was North Lake's gym instructor/guidance counsellor. Billy felt that this ex-football jock was about as qualified a guidance counsellor as a slug would be a brain surgeon. He continued to sit quietly, putting on his best 'attention-paying' face.

"Ignoring your in-class assignments is one thing," spoke Phillips. "But, devoting so much energy to this..., this junk! I cannot tolerate it anymore."

JUNK!! How blind you must be, thought Billy, squirming as he grew slightly more uncomfortable. The 'Devastator' series was his favorite and had provided him with a chance to really stretch out. With each passing day, Billy could feel it coming together - his mastery of structure, technique and dialogue. He was years from true greatness, but could feel the first real growth spurts of talent.

Phillips returned to Billy's desk side and lifted the thick geometry text that sat there, opened so infrequently that it looked and smelled next to new. "You see this, boy," said Phillips, raising the book in the air. "You take this home tonight and begin studying the first six chapters. When you return here on Monday, you will be tested."

Billy looked down at his own shoes, wishing something would relieve him of this nightmare.

"If I feel you are grasping the material at a satisfactory level, I may consider allowing you to continue in my class. If not, you'll be escorted to Mr. Boever's office, where you'll spend last period each day for the remainder of the semester."

As Phillips expounded and Billy feigned concern, the school's afternoon janitor quietly entered the classroom to empty the wastebasket. Phillips ignored this daily ritual, focusing on his teenage target. "You need help, son. I see nothing but trouble in ..."

Something weird happened to Grant Phillips just then. A strange smile appeared on the pimply face of Billy Rogers as the geometry professor became aware of somebody else's hot breath on his right shoulder. He turned.

The janitor, a very large man, had abandoned his daily chores and taken to standing directly behind Mr. Grant Phillips. He wore glasses and a thick growth above his upper lip. His blue coveralls sported a name, in stark black print - Mr. Shockner.

"Do we have a problem here?" inquired the husky custodian.

Phillips was momentarily speechless, for the first time in his life. He swallowed hard as this blue-clad behemoth hulked over him. "I beg your pardon," came the slightly choked words from the math wizard, who was now wondering if his bladder might unload in his undershorts.

Albert Shockner wasted no time in snatching Phillips by the scruff with his lightning fast right paw. "Don't you ever beg my fucking pardon again, fucker."

A dark patch of hot urine soaked the crotch of Grant Phillips as he became suspended by Shockner's powerful grip. Billy Rogers watched with content fascination. The eyes of the Devastator burned with seething rage as the pathetic ragdoll named Grant Phillips whimpered like a child.

"You've been a bother," spoke Shockner. "You've been a bother to both me and that young man. That boy is very important to me, and I won't have you fucking with him. Do I make myself clear, you son of a bitch?"

"Why are you doing this? Who are you? WHAT are you?"

Shockner held Phillips six inches above the floor tiles with minimal effort. He listened to the hapless pleas, void of any visible human emotion. The author in Billy Rogers mind kicked into overdrive as Phillips suddenly became a projectile. He smashed face first into the blackboard, his horrified mug instantly reduced to a sticky mess of chalk dust and blood. The stunned teacher writhed in agony as the mighty Albert Shockner moved in for the big finish. Offering no resistance, Phillips found himself in Shockner's clutches again, as he met eyes with young Billy Rogers.

"Why, Billy? Why?"

The side window of the classroom began to rush forward in the eyes of Grant Phillips as Albert Shockner heaved the screaming teacher with tremendous power. An eruption of shattering glass was followed by three long seconds and a sickening splatter on the pavement below. Billy lept from his desk and raced to the smashed window. He stared down with satisfaction.

"Junk," he mused, turning to meet his literary creation come to life. "Thank you, Mr. Shock..."

He was gone. Young Billy Rogers stared, dumbfounded, at the empty classroom, his twisted mind replayng what had just happened. He smiled and picked up his stack of short stories, sliding them inside the front cover of his geometry text. Amidst the growing pandemonium three floors down, he quietly excused himself from another day at North Lake Junior High.

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