Chapter 1

“John Scott, thanks to you—Andre’s in the hospital!”, Mr. Smith, Johnny’s school principal, yelled. 

Andre, a loudmouthed jerk, had been throwing insults at Johnny for weeks. Today, something in Johnny broke. It might’ve been because he hadn’t seen his mom for a week, or that his dad busted up his jaw in the boxing gym, or it might’ve been because of Andre. If anything, it was just like Johnny’s punches, a combination of things. 

Johnny’s jaw was still sore, but he knew better than to complain about it… After he left the gym, he went straight to school. He was at the lockers; the scent of over-sprayed deodorant and old textbooks filled the halls. It was in between classes. While he was taking out a textbook, he felt a warm, wet, and sudden spot strike his neck. Johnny wiped it off in disgust. Spitball, Johnny thought Andre’s specialty. Johnny looked over at where Andre was waiting with his cronies. He decided to leave it be. He was used to Andre’s antics…he learned that these types of guys get off on bad reactions, so he tried not to react. A girl Johnny used to know, Bella Porosoff, was grabbing her things from her locker, which happened to be next to Johnny’s. She and Johnny were tight when they were younger, but when Johnny’s father retired a year ago, they drifted apart, and Johnny stopped making an effort. He didn’t make any friends after that.

“Don’t worry about him…he’s an idiot.” She said nonchalantly. 

He slammed the locker door and started walking off. He clenched his jaw in anger but felt a jolting pain that came in the form of a click. Johnny, in pain, started holding his jaw. 

“What’s the matter ‘Scott? Ate too much crap today?” Andre asked, with an awful grin that showed off his green braces and yellow teeth.

“Leave him alone,” Bella said, annoyed.

“Who asked you?” Andre snarled.

Johnny was holding his jaw, he wasn’t in the mood for this. He started walking away…quickly. 

“Hey, where are you going ‘Scott? To fix your bra strap?”

“Look man, leave me alone, alright?”

“Aww…why so sad? Did your boyfriend dump you?” 

“Shut up!” Bella shrieked as she tried to push Andre.

“Make me,” Andre smirked as he smacked all of Bella’s books out of her hands.

When Johnny saw this, he realised something. He broke…He felt something come out in him. A monster. Johnny hit Andre quickly with a right cross, followed by a left hook and a right uppercut. He just kept throwing the combinations he had practiced that morning. He couldn’t remember exactly what happened after that. Every punch just blended together. 

The next thing he knew was that he was in the principal’s office with Bella. Johnny’s knuckles were sore and covered in blood. He couldn’t tell if the blood on his knuckles was Andre’s, or his. Perhaps it was a bit of both.  

“John Scott, thanks to you—Andre’s in the hospital! Your grades are terrible, you fall asleep in class, you don’t do your homework, you have a terrible conduct grade– you broke Andre’s nose, and knocked out a tooth! Bella—you always make these situations worse by getting involved. Whenever there’s trouble, I can always count on you to be there, in the middle of it!” Mr. Smith sighed, “Both of you are in big trouble!”

Bella and Johnny sat across from Mr. Smith. Johnny avoided eye contact with him, he just kept his eyes on his knuckles…Bella on the other hand looked at Mr. Smith dead in the eyes.

“But it isn’t either of our faults!” Bella argued.

“You provoked him, yes?” Mr. Smith asked as Bella tried to interrupt, “You provoked him. Now, I’m not saying that anyone’s solely responsible for what happened…All three of you are to blame. You, Johnny, and Andre.”

Mr. Smith explained that everyone would be punished. Johnny, Andre, and even Bella. They were to do a school service together, as a group…This would take effect after Bella and Johnny’s suspension, and when Andre got out of the hospital. Mr. Smith sent both Johnny and Bella home. 

“It’s not your fault you know—it’s not,” Bella said, trying to reassure Johnny…Johnny knew otherwise.

His dad came to pick him up. Johnny’s dad, Joseph Scott, owned the local boxing gym. The gym was filled with heavy bags that were taped up from the damage. It also had two-speed bags, aqua bags, double-end bags, and anything to do with boxing. The weight rack was at the end of the gym, but Johnny wasn’t allowed to use the weights. There was a boxing ring, for sparring…the platform of the ring was meant to be white but was mostly a pinkish-orange—due to the amount of blood that was on it. Every free wall in the gym was covered in old posters of the gym’s best talent. Johnny’s favourite poster was the one of his dad versus the last opponent that he beat, Tyler ‘Grenade’ Granger, for the WBA (World Boxing Association) heavyweight title.

Joseph ‘Boogieman’ Scott was a heavyweight world champion. 6 foot 3 and built like a monster. He was the best in the world…until he got injured in his last fight against Marley ‘Gravedigger’ Graves. The reason why the poster of Johnny’s dad and Tyler “Grenade” “Granger was his favourite, was because it was the last time he ever saw his father—his parents are happy. It had been a little over a year since Johnny’s father retired. He didn’t only lose the fight, he lost his fame, his dignity, his money, and most importantly–himself.

Johnny’s father hadn’t said a word to Johnny the whole car ride back to the gym. There was just this awkward silence. When the two arrived at the gym, Johnny’s father locked the car doors, and finally decided to say something.

“What were you thinking?” Johnny’s dad asked, fuming.

Johnny stayed silent, and stared at the gym through the windshield, as his father took a deep breath.

“One wrong move and your whole life are over. The world’s changed, there are cameras everywhere–can’t even get out of the car to yell at someone anymore…Thank God that the kid’s parents are gone and his uncle doesn’t care about him…”

Johnny remained silent. His father paused, redirecting the conversation.

“Why’d you do it huh?”

Johnny didn’t know how to answer. 

“You practically live in the gym! If you were mad you could’ve taken it out in a good way, but instead, you take it out on some ugly little snot!” Johnny’s father snarled as he clenched his fist.

Johnny felt his Adam’s apple start to throb, he was about to start crying but fought that urge as his life depended on it.

“I’m very disappointed in you. You were meant to be better… better than me, better than your mom–but you just had to ruin it… “ Johnny’s father said, in a hauntingly soft voice.

Johnny hadn’t seen this side of his father before… he only ever really saw his father as this brutal thug–this killer who showed no emotions.

“Goddammit! I should’ve known you were nothing but a waste of space! A good-for-nothing bum!” Johnny’s father whacked the middle of the steering wheel, and the sound of the impact and the honk blended together. 

Johnny ran out of the car, through the main doors of the gym, and sprinted up the stairs to get to the second level. The cold afternoon light was slipping through the stained windows. He sat down and brought his knees up to his chest. He’d been hit hard before, but the pain from those punches didn’t even hold a candle to the pain those words brought to him. His father, the man who was supposed to care for him, the man who was supposed to mould him, just called Johnny useless. He called Johnny a bum, a good-for-nothing waste of space. 

There was this excruciating pain in his throat, right at his Adam’s apple. Tears started dripping down his face. Johnny was used to being yelled at—but for some reason, those words hurt him more than they should have. They hurt more than getting hit. He wasn’t used to this, he wasn’t used to crying. He wasn’t used to feeling vulnerable. Johnny was so angry that he decided to hit the aqua bag bare-knuckle. He was always advised against this as it could hurt his hand, but if anything, Johnny wanted to hurt his hand. Johnny wanted a distraction from all the other pain he was feeling. 

1-2, 1-1-2, 3, 3-6, 

Johnny threw his combinations hard, further hurting his already bruised knuckles. He started grunting with each strike, his voice full of primal rage somehow making his shots more powerful. The aqua bag started taking the form of other things…people. Johnny saw his dad, he saw his mom leaving, he also saw Andre…He wasn’t swinging at the bag, he wasn’t swinging at his father, his mother, or even Andre…He was swinging at life, and the cards it dealt him. 

You’re useless…Johnny thought to himself as he hit the bag even harder, with each strike.

All you ever do is mess things up…1-1-3,1-1-2-1, 1-1-4, 1-4…Your grades are crap. Your parents-they ain’t happy with each other, they ain’t happy with you either…1-3-8, 1-1-3-7-5-8…and it’s all your fault. 3-4-1-1-2, 1-1-8-8… You just had to mess things up again didn’t you Johnny? 1-3-8…8-8-8-8-8-…

“GRAH! AH! GRAH!” Johnny started screaming with anger. Everybody shot, every number 8 he threw, he just kept screaming…Louder and louder each time. “AIH! AISH! HAIH! RAHH!”

AH…Johnny cut his knuckle over his index finger on the bag. The skin was peeling off like saran wrap around a leftover burrito from TacoBell. His hand started shaking. 

Goddamn it…Johnny thought as blood started gushing out his knuckle. Johnny heard footsteps coming up the stairs of the gym. He quickly washed off some of the blood and wrapped up his hands, with his protective wraps to hide his injury.

“Hey, John,” Johnny’s father said, “I need to tell you something”.

Johnny was intrigued… Is he going to apologize? No way… That’s not like him.

“Right now, you have a lot of hormones, a lot of testosterone a-and when I was your age… I was belligerent too.”

Belligerent. The one ‘fancy’ word Johnny’s father knew… It meant hostile and aggressive.

“There’s an amateur boxing match in 7 months… headgear, ref’, the works… You in?” Johnny’s father asked.

Oh… Johnny thought, disappointed. I should’ve known he wouldn’t have apologised.

“But what about mom?” Johnny asked, knowing his mother never wanted him to get hurt.

Suddenly, Johnny heard a shriek. It was his mother calling his name. Speak of the devil, Johnny thought as he started walking down the steps. 

Johnny was close to his mother before his father had to stop fighting. She’d always listen… She stopped listening when his father lost that fight because he lost part of himself. That in turn impacted everyone around him, especially Johnny and his mother. 

Johnny saw his fathers stomp down the stairs to talk to his mother. He could only see the back of his father’s head, but he knew what his face would look like.

“Johnny! Johnny get down here right now!” Johnny’s mother yelled again, she was wearing her nicest black dress and was caked in makeup.

“Where have you been?” Johnny’s father asked aggressively.

“I’ve been working,” Johnny’s mother retorted, “Johnny what’s this about you getting into a fight in school?”

“You haven’t been working. Look at you all dressed up.” 

“Shut up Joe!” She screamed.

“Don’t tell me to shut up!” Johnny’s father barked back.

They had suddenly started shouting at the top of their lungs…Johnny was used to it, but all the people in the ongoing class weren’t. Everyone in the class was staring at Johnny’s parents, so they ended up going into the office to argue. Johnny couldn’t hear what exactly they were saying, but he could hear certain parts of the argument. He heard his mother blame his father for their son’s problems. He also heard his father throw some of the blame back on his mother, saying that she’s never around. His parents kept throwing the blame around like a game of catch…each parent blamed the other, but Johnny knew whose fault it really was.

“I can’t take this Joe! I’m headed to my sister’s house. You deal with that boy!” Johnny’s mother shrieked as she stormed out of the office.

“Go on then! Leave like you always do! Just don’t come back this time ‘round!” Johnny’s father yelled back at her.  

Johnny started tearing up yet again. Goddamn it, he thought, it’s my fault again. It’s all my goddamn fault…If only I hadn’t lost my stupid temper…you’re stupid Johnny…useless idiot who deserves nothing.

Johnny walked upstairs as cold tears fell across his face…He tried to stop crying, but he couldn’t…he just couldn’t.

He saw his father out of the corner of his eye but tried to hide his tears…He didn’t wanna’ seem weak. He walked over to his gym bag, took out his hand wraps, and started wrapping his hands. He could hear his father’s heavy footsteps behind him. On the outside, it seemed like Johnny was calming down, but on the inside, Johnny wasn’t…in fact, he was only getting angrier.

Johnny’s father came into the room, pretending that the whole argument never happened, “Johnny, the amateurs need an answer, now.”

“I want to fight,” Johnny said, determined.

“You ain’t worried about your mother no more?

“You heard what she said…” Johnny needed to prove he wasn’t a bum, “I want to fight.”

Kaiden Quinn (Class of 2024) is a Literary Arts student who enjoys exploring different themes whilst writing. He particularly likes writing action sequences and comedy. His favourite form of writing is the screenplay.