The One Word Story: “Noticed in the Lunchroom” by R. Scott Whitley

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Happy Monday, all! Well, as happy a Monday as you can make it. Today’s story is from my good buddy R Scott Whitley. Since Pope’s “World’s End” project, Reggie has been there, with one great story after another. Today’s story is about the biggest gut punch you’ll ever receive.

Reggie’s story deals with a school shooting from the perspective of one of the shooters. It’s visceral, the kind of story that is sadly with our modern times, floating around in our consciousness. Stories of all kinds have the ability to show us ourselves. “Noticed in the Lunchroom” is one of those kind of stories. It’s as powerful a title as the line “Jeremy spoke in class today.”

A fair warning, this story is not for the faint of heart, and I’m going to let Reggie introduce it. You can follow him on Twitter @_RScottWhitley_

“I chose the word deipnosophist – A person skilled in the art of dining and dinner table conversation.

I chose this word without a clue of what I would write, but it sounded kind of interesting.  The topic I wrote on, I wasn’t sure about the appropriateness originally, but that’s not what writing is about in my mind.”

So… here you go:

Noticed in the Lunchroom

“Lock the fucking doors!” I yelled, towards the cafeteria entrance, backing up the entire time.  Sweat rolled down my back, my face, my fingers.  I could feel the inside of my gloves, wet from sweat.

“Get away motherfucker!  I’ll fucking…”

Brent fired his rifle seven straight times, this time it was random, because I could hear the bullets hitting the cinderblock walls, one shattering a window.

“Dude, lock. The fucking. Doors!”

He turned and looked at me, his face was blank.  It was blank like I knew mine looked, or at least how it had before adrenaline and pure fucking terror had swallowed up every bit of my body.

“What?” he raised his rifle up to his eye, ready to shoot again, his back still holding the cafeteria door open.

“The fucking doors!  Chain the fucking doors!” I yelled.

A whimper from the floor by the kitchen area made me look over.  Duct tape muffled cries from one of the six people we had pulled in.  Some were just random people, not anyone we had intentionally chosen.  Brent had grabbed most of them, I thought, but then again, at this point, who knows.

It had all happened so fast.

That sounded crazy right now because we had planned it for so long.  Sitting in his bedroom, or my bedroom, or in the parking lot at the park, we had talked about it for months, but suddenly it seemed like it had been shoved into the span of about five minutes, and in that time we had planned all of… this.

“Watch them!” Brent yelled at me, and I looked over.  One of guys, a kid who was a senior, his name was Garret or something.  He wasn’t even one of the kids who we were going after, he was just some random guy walking out of Ms. Vick’s algebra class.  Brent grabbed him by putting a cord around his neck, dragging him down.

“Hey… listen… sit up,” I said.  There wasn’t a single bit of the venom left in me.  “Just sit up, you’ll be fine.”

As I lifted him up by shoulder so that he was sitting up again, I saw his eyes.  He was crying, a cry that wasn’t something people did.  I’d never seen, ever.  All the people I shot, they’d all been too far to…

“Don’t fucking make out with him, sit him up or shoot him,” Brent yelled.  He propped his rifle against the wall and started tight wrapping the chains around the doors so they wouldn’t open.

“Shut up, ok?” I yelled, “I’m just trying to make sure he doesn’t…”

“You need to make sure that nobody gets in from over there!” he yelled at me, pointing to an exit door out of the cafeteria to the courtyard.

“I chained that one before I said anything to you,” I said, my voice almost too quiet to hear.

Garrett was looking at me, his eyes wildly darting.  Fear had made this kid’s dark eyebrows and dark eyes meld into one long form of knotted skin, blood red with terror, and soaked with pouring tears.

“Get them up at the tables,” Brent yelled picking up his rifle, slinging it over his shoulder and running to where they were, “I want to fucking look at them before I blow them the fuck away.”

I looked at Brent.  He was a dead man, he knew it, I knew it, and he was no longer thinking like a breathing person.  He was in the grave making choices on who would join him now.

“Hey… fucking move!” he yelled.  He was dragging a girl up to the table.  Her arms were taped behind her, her mouth covered.  She was a blonde girl, a freshman.  I knew her because Brent had talked about her incessantly.

I hadn’t seen her.  I didn’t know he’d gotten her.

Her face slammed down on the table when he dropped her in the chair.  Her cheek slammed hard, knocking tears out of her so they hit the table.  A scream devoid of breath came from her body.

She looked at me.

I grabbed another kid, he played soccer, goalie or something.  He had brown hair and dimples.  I had talked about him once because he had a girlfriend who was a senior and he was just a sophomore.

“Yeah!” Brent said nodding at the kid, “yeah, yeah, yeah!” he said smiling.  “At least we got two of those fuckers.”

I looked at the Rhett, the dimpled soccer player, and could only see the back of his head.  There was a gash under his hair where I think I had hit him with the butt of my rifle, sort of looked like a gunshot wound.  I’d thought a lot about what that hole would look like.

“Come on,” Brent yelled, “you get the other three.” The last kid he tossed into a chair was a kid with strange, wavy dark hair and really bad skin.  I only knew him because he had a ten year old car that he raced and treated like it was some kind of child to him.

Point is, I didn’t know him.  At all.

“Get one more,” I said, “please.”

I sounded weak.  And small.

“Fucking hell,” Brent walked over to this small kid.  He was small, even for a freshman.  He was a good looking kid, active in sports, but not particularly a big deal.  We had never talked about him.  He dragged him to the table and when he tried to toss him into a chair, he missed, the kid fell, hitting his head on another chair, causing the chair to slide, but leaving a huge gash just above the kid’s right eye.

I walked over and the next person I got up, Brent had grabbed.

“Miss Harrison…”

My words had barely a rustle to them.  Miss Harrison had been my second grade teacher, and then she had moved up to high school as a special education teacher the year before I started here.

Her hair was black, but with spider webs of gray through it.  Her hair was sort of round-ish, her face, that was normally so kind and so quiet was now drawn, the duct tape bunching up where she was trying to scream.  She looked right at me in horror.

“Miss Harrison, I’m… I’m not…”

She was screaming behind the tape.

There was a thud so loud that it sounded like a brick had shattered, and made me jump back.  Brent had slipped up to my right and hit Miss Harrison so hard in the left side of her temple she was thrown to my left, blood running from face.

“Drag her over to the table.  The fuck is wrong with you?”  Brent was dragging over the last kid, a girl I didn’t even know.  Brent had to know her because he was talking to her like he did, but I had only seen her once or twice.  She had long hair, brown and thin.  She was taped tight, her arms so far back that I was surprised she hadn’t broken a shoulder.

I had to use both hands to drag Miss Harrison.  She was dead weight now.  I thought she might actually be dead.  Brent had hit her really hard and blood was streaking across the floor.

I had to lift her into the chair and slumped her head onto the table: blood was running into her eyes, I was just about to wipe her face when Brent came over.

“Come here,” he said waving me out of earshot of the table.

“The cops will come in soon, so we don’t have long,” he said.

I just looked at him, not bothering with the question of how we would get out.

“Ok,” is all I could manage.

“So, remember all the stuff you talked about?  That list of stuff?  This is your time.  This is your time for these people to know.  This is there time to find out what they’ve all done to us.”

“Wha….”

“All the stuff.  How that little soccer fuck kept you from getting that senior chick.  How that little blonde whore over there was fucking every fucking body who got near her.  How that kid Garrett… I think he was dating that girl, Angela or whoever.  The girl with the fucking mole.”

His voice was getting louder and louder.

“This is your chance!  This is it.  Tell them… tell them why.  Make them understand who we are.”

Brent threw his rifle and pulled a pistol out of his pocket.  It was the .38 I thought, but he had bought so many I wasn’t sure anymore.  It was black, and it’s black blended right into the black of his gloves.

“You need to all know,” he said banging the pistol on the table, “you fucking never saw us.  You don’t know who we are.  You don’t know who me and him are… well…”

He nodded to me.

I blinked and walked over to the table.

Brent walked up behind the blonde, pushing the barrel into the back of her head and she screamed so loud behind the tape that I could just hear her lungs ripping.

“Her first,” he said and he nodded.

“Um…” I said walking up to the head of the table, “uh…” I looked at her eyes.  I couldn’t tell their color at all, they were just red now.  Maybe from crying so hard, maybe from being slammed onto the table.  “uh… Christen,” I said trying to look at her, but could only shake my head at Brent.  He shoved the barrel deep into the base of her skull.

“Say something or I’ll blow it right here,” he said.

“Ok, ok… ok…” I looked at her.  In the eyes.  “You are in here because you never paid attention to Brent… or me.  You only worried about yourself.” I couldn’t hear myself speaking over the rushing of blood in my ears, and I was pretty sure she wasn’t hearing me.  Her face was beyond acceptance of death, and settled into primal fight, but near exhaustion.  “You, left us to… um… not have any…”

“You fucked everybody,” Brent said and he kept pushing the gun hard into her neck.  I was afraid it would eventually break her neck, “you would never even fucking look at me.  I’ve known you since the sixth fucking grade, and you have never even said shit to me…”

She stopped and looked at me.

I remembered her.  Seventh grade.  Christen tried to help me with the mile run we had to do.  She said, ‘come on follow us’.  I remember that.

“Fuck, just… next…” Brent let go of her, and walked over to the next kid, the soccer player… with dimples.  Brent held his forehead down against the table, digging the barrel of the gun into the gash I had left in the kid’s hair.  “Come on…”

I looked at him.  The kid was kicking and squirming, the pain of the gun in the gash, digging into his flesh, putting him in an absolute fit of pain.

“Rhett…” I whispered, but tried to make it loud.  There was no way the kid could hear me.  “you… you were…” the kid had only dated the senior for about three weeks.  “you had dated a senior when you weren’t even a…”

I realized that this would be it.  Today would be it.

Brent looked at me and then pulled the gun back and hit Rhett, hard in the back of the skull so that his body just went limp.

“That’s for being a fucking useless sophomore,” he said.  “That’s for dating Ginger Albertson.  She’s a whore, but you are a fucking sophomore fucking mother fucker,” Brent leaned over him like he could still hear him.  “You come in like you know everybody and like you do everything.  Fucker.”  He slapped the side of the pistol against Rhett’s cheek.  Rhett didn’t move, but his cheek split, and blood ran.

“Ginger is dating that guy who is going to Coastal Carolina now,” I said.

“Was…” he said.

“No, she left Rhett for that guy… Trig or something.”

“No, I mean, ‘was’.  I blew her fucking head off in the English hall.  She was a fucking skank anyways.”

I looked at Brent.  I couldn’t not look at Rhett.

“And this one,” he said walking over to the last girl he had brought over.  I work with her.  She talked to me for two months.  Two fucking months.”  He squatted down beside her.  She hadn’t been hit or anything.  “Nate shows up, and she’s falling all over herself to talk to him.  All I wanted to do was ask her out.  We talked all the time.  I texted with her all the…”

“You never told me that,” I said.  “You’ve never said anything about…”

“Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” he said, and pushed the barrel of the gun into her temple, like a vise, holding her head against the table.  “And as soon as he came up… no more texts.  No more chats after work.  No more nothing.”

I had never known Brent talked to anybody.

“How long have you …”

“Sixteen months…”

I looked at him.

The whole time.

This whole thing.  All of it.

“Why didn’t you fucking tell me!?!” I yelled at him.

“Tell you what?” he yelled, and looked down at her pushing the barrel into her head, “that this little twat wasn’t talking to me?  That I would text her and I would just get a ‘haha’ back from her?  That I would sit there and watch her talk to Nate, and laugh with Nate, ride up and off in Nate’s car.  Fucking Nate.” He leaned over to her ear, “I know you were fucking him, even though you told me that you were a virgin and you would wait until it was the right guy, and that the right guy would ask you to marry you… blah blah blah.”

“But… I didn’t know all this…”

“What the fuck did you need to know?  All these fuckers deserved this.  You said yourself that you never got any pussy.  You said it all the time.”

I looked at him and didn’t want to look over at the table of folks listening to what he said.  Something about them hearing that was worse to me than all the shooting, and all the beating and blood.

“I didn’t mean that we had to do…”

“Then what the fuck did you mean!? ‘Those fuckers are getting all the pussy and they don’t even look over here because of that parking group.’  You said it… over and over… and over.”

I looked at the table.  The table that was wiped with tears… and sweat… and blood.  Miss Harrison was looking at me now, her eyes barely slits, and when I looked at her she closed her eyes and squeezed bloody tears out.

“You fucking said it.”

“I know,” I said and walked away from the table and leaned against the wall, looking at the mess.  I could see through the window out of the cafeteria that there was a blood smear down the wall.  Blood was on the floor where these six had been dragged in.

“Why are you pussing out now?”

“Don’t say that…”

He leaned over to the girl he worked with.

“How’s it feel now?  How do you think fucking Nate will react when he finds out that I was the last one to see you… that I was here to…”

“What’s her name?” I asked Brent.

“None of your fucking…”

Before I realized it I had the pistol pointed at him and had the hammer back.

“What’s her name?” I asked him.

“The fuck are you doing?”

“What is her fucking NAME?” I yelled and started walking towards him.  He turned from her and raised the pistol to me.

So, I fired.

I watched him crumple away like it was slow motion.  There wasn’t another movement from him.  I looked at him like I hadn’t just shot dozens in the school halls.  He crumpled down in an awkward, body-dead slump.

Brent didn’t move again.

I looked back to the table where all those poor people were seated.

The head of the table was open, so I walked over, pulled over a chair and sat down.

“I can’t tell you why … or anything.  I don’t even know. Nobody will get this, I don’t even get it exactly.”

The folks who were conscious were listening.  Miss Harrison, the girl who Nate had talked to.  Garrett.

“It’s my fault.  All of it.” I shook my head, and for the first time in years, felt tears run down my face.  I felt like I should say more, something profound, something deep and meaningful.  I felt like I should be saying something that would stick with these folks, something that explained all of it.

We’d written this manifesto, well I had.  It talked about all the people who had forgotten us, all the people who had wronged us.  We were forgotten, we would be remembered.  The thing was pages and pages long.

“I will be remembered,” I said shaking my head feeling the tears run down.  “For fucks sake.  I’m so sorry.”

I looked at them one last time.

“You didn’t do any of this. No matter what you hear.  This is me… more me than him.  I did this.”

You’ll remember the day that we rose up and reminded you that we are here.  That it isn’t all for you, that there are those of us who are forgotten, those of us who you don’t know, but after today, you will know.  After today you’ll remember us.

I shook my head.

The girl who worked with Brent was closest to me, and I leaned over.

“I didn’t know.  I really didn’t.  I’m sorry, he never said… I mean… he never told me…”

I pushed away from the table, walked away from them.  I walked out of the room and into the kitchen so they couldn’t see me or hear the shot.

All I could do was shake my head and cry.

It hadn’t happened like I had expected, but all of it ended because I ended it all.

 

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