“Just stop darling! You’re going to school today. It’s been 3 weeks!”
Life had always been a litte bit difficult to say the least for Spencer. At school he was that penguin, the one whose shirt was never ironed enough, and whose trousers just weren’t the right kind. The last 21 days had been a welcomed break for him from the horrors of the playground, and the torment that was his school life.
His mum just didn’t understand. She had said she did, but she just didn’t – there was just no way she could.
“But Mum, I can’t. They’ll laugh at me. They’ll call me a coward!”
“No! Spencer Humbard Beakly you are going to school today, if it is the last thing you do!!!”
She walked away quickly; her final decision was simple for her. Her son was just lazy and quite frankly she was just fed up with his moping expression.
“I give you 5 minutes to get down here, or you will be going in in your pajamas!”
Spencer rolled over in his bed. His dreams forgotten and replaced by his fear of leaving his room. It was normal, no? Why should he want to leave for school when he knew exactly what was waiting for him at the gates?
He climbed slowly out from underneath the covers and walked over to his untouched wardrobe to pull out his unused uniform. First the shirt, then the trousers and finally the tie. As he tried to fix his hair he smiled desperately at the mirror: what was the point? Nothing he did was ever good enough anyway.
So he was ready to go, his bag was all packed and he had somehow managed to find all of his text books which had been scattered carelessly around the room. He couldn’t put this off any longer.
“Time to do this then,” he whispered with a pained look in his eyes.
He clambered down the stairs as gracefully as he could manage and stared at his mum who was sitting watching the latest episode of “Pingu’s final days.”
“I’m proud of you mishling,” she smiled weakly across at him. A sense of guilt filled him as she looked lovingly across the room. Of course she understood, she just couldn’t help. She loved him (that was for sure,) she just wanted the best for him.
“Thank you Moma,” he laughed nervously as he hugged her tightly before walking slowly towards the door.
“It will all be okay, and when you get back later we’ll watch Zoomangi!”
He slammed the door behind him, no going back now. He zig-zagged dangerously across the road narrowly avoiding the school bus. He prefferred to walk, there were just too many of them inside that metal box. At least it was sunny, that was one thing. At least it wasn’t one of those aweful stories where the weather reflected his mood.
Spencer was impressed with himself, he had somehow managed to turn the 5 minute walk to his school into a 20 minute waddle, and therefore was late. It had all be part of his plan. He could not be seen in the playground right now, the other kids would all laugh and point. They always did.
He walked through the school gates at exactly 9:09. 9 minutes late. The others would all be in class by now, meaning that he could just slip in quietly without being noticed.
“Yes Miss, sorry I’m late Miss.”
There was a gasp of suprise as he sauntered through the classroom door. What had they been expecting, him to just stay away for ever? He took his place on the green table with caution. Everybody had been moved around and now he was on the same table as Paula. He felt like leaving instantly. He could tell straight away that he was going to have a bad day.
“Nice to see you Spencer. Could you possibly stay behind after class to speak about the work that you’ve missed.”
“Yes Miss,” he tried to sound as sad as possible, but it was so hard not too smile at the thought of yet another avoidance of the others.
Class continued as normal, and Spencer gradually began to feel more relaxed. Sure the others were looking at him with eyes of disbelief, but that was fine, they couldn’t get to him. Miss Pablo would see to that. It was maths, and he was good at maths, so he quickly began to feel totally at ease.
When the others left for break Spencer stayed sat in his seat, and Miss Pablo ran through the work he had missed. Verbs, algebra and some school show in tribute to Phunky Penguin. He could catch up, and indeed he already had. He was by far the cleverest penguin in the school.
Then it was time for lunch. Spencer was suddenly on edge. That meant seeing them, and he kicked himself for forgetting his mums kipper sandwich that she had lovingly left on the kitchen side counter. The canteen was always the worst.
It started as soon as he walked into the room.
“Skidmark Spencer. Over here you dunce.”
He kept his head down, he knew exactly how to deal with this. There was no point responding to anything they said.
“Oh look, mummy’s boys back. Could of at least down your hair loser!”
The dinner ladies gave him an apolgetic look and an extra slice of cake as he went to try and find an empty table. There wasn’t any, and the only seat available was right next to Paula. As he went to sit down he managed to tuck his feet around the chair legs and sit down without her pulling the chair from under him. That was her favourite trick, and he wasn’t going to let her get away with that today.
He was hungry and soon his extra large portion of fish pie was no more.
“Greedy guts, greedy guts, Skidmark is a greedy guts.”
He walked patiently towards the bin and out of the door. Another situation avoided. He was proud of himself. Those idiots hadn’t got to him yet. The bell rang loudly and echoed down the corridors. Time to return to class, Spencer had always been a fan of French.
The rest of the school day passed quickly, and before Spencer was ready for it the chairs were on top of the tables and Miss Samson was waiting at the door for them all to be quiet and calm.
“See you all tomorrow class,” She smiled cheerfully, thinking of her evening dinner plans. “Remember to bring the consent forms for the trip to Iceland.
As they filed calmy through the playground and towards the school gates Spencer felt a harsh push against his back. He rolled his eyes at himself sarcastically, why couldn’t she just grow up. He began to walk slightly quicker, but she was still there.
He turned around and smiled at her.
No point avoiding her. Why couldn’t she just leave him alone, she was such a pest.
“Why, look who thinks he can talk – It’s skidmark Spencer,” she said aggressively as she spat in his face. A chorus of laughter rang out from the crowd around.
“Don’t,” Spencer replied assertively. Oh no he thought to himself, where had this come from? He was not going to get away with that. In the time it took him to realise what he had down Paula had moved closer in to his face. She looked up at him with a threatening look on her face.
“You didn’t want to do that, did you skidmark.”
He had crossed the line, and everybody knew it. He span around quickly and tried to walk off with dignity but before he had taken more than 2 steps he felt something hit the ground right next to him. He glanced down at the rock that lay innocently on the floor. She was not happy.
Spencer ran quickly down the road, hopefully he could get back within 3 minutes at this pace and then he would be safe. His mum and him could cook fish fingers and everything would be back to normal. He laughed at the word normal though, what even was normal? For him this was part of his life.
Paula was chasing after him, and of course he couldn’t get away. She was the head of the athletics team and ran both the 100 and the 400m. She was gaining distance on him.
“Stop running, there’s no point. You’re just making it harder for yourself!” She cried after him as he turned around the corner.
“Be careful where you’re going. Your eyes are way too far apart for you to even notice if your about to run into something. Hopefully it will be a lorry, and then we’ll never have to see you again.”
For the first time in life he prayed that a lorry would come flying around the corner. What was the point in even running. She was right, he was going to catch her at some point. He might as well give up!
As he rounded the last corner he could see the wooden dumpster, and he suddenly knew he had only one chance to get away from her. He glanced back and then jumped quickly into the open bin. Pain spread quickly through his body as he cracked his head against the side. He had no time to yell out or scream, but all he could remember thinking was that at least he hadn’t got caught. He had got away, and then he was just there. Lying there, as his earlier dreams flooded back through his brain.
Spencer lay there unconcious for maybe 30 minutes, and then he slowly recovered conciousness. His head hurt and his arms and legs were sore from the fall, but he was alive, and alone. Paula had left him, and there were no more howls of laughter from her cronies.
He stayed there on the wooden floor for another 5 minutes before trying to move, and upon rolling over he found that he had not really caused himself much injury at all. He was sore, but not broken. He stood up slowly and almost fell down again as the basket swayed. As he grabbed onto the wood to regain balance he looked out of the darkness and realised that he wasn’t in the bin anymore. He worked out that he had never really even jumped into a bin.
His eyes shot up above him and all he could see was a vast colourful ball of air. Trust me, he thought to himself with a nervous laugh, trust me to jump straight into the basket of an air balloon. He laughed aloud for possibly 3 minutes straight before sitting down again. Well, he had definately managed to escape from Paula – unless she could somehow fly!!
He stood up again, his balance having improved massively, and stared down over the edge of the wicker basket. It was so beautiful up here. From his vantage point he could see nothing but trees and green fields. There were strange, black and white four-legged creatures standing in the green below and they looked up and smiled at him. He couldn’t help but smile back, he couldn’t remember a time he had felt so alive.
As time passed and the great ball of air continued to float high above the ground Spencer stood relaxed against the edge of the basket, just soaking up the beauty of freedom. He had got away from all that hatred and sadness, and now it was just him and his balloon. He knew then that he would never go back to that place. He could never go back there, not after experiencing life at its fullest.
Nothing mattered anymore. Not Paula and her meaness, not any of that. He was happy and that was it. There was just one last thing he needed to do before he was completely free. He needed to send his mother a letter. Explaining just how much he missed her, and just how much he loved her. She had been up all night worrying about him (that much he knew) and she just needed to know that he was safe and happy now, before he continued on with his journey.
All is well, and I am finally safe and happy. Thank you for everything you’ve ever taught me, and thank you for always being there for me. Hopefully one day I will return and we can both fly away from the greyness of the place I once called home.
I love you very much and I will always care for you.
Love your most dearest mishling,