Chapter 4: Todd
...... Todd, in the quiet dormitory, stood at his open locker arraying his merchandise. On a mid-level shelf, as if in a shop display case, he spread out candy bars, water guns, decks of cards, a few yo-yos, a couple of pairs of ear-buds, and assorted other kid stuff.
...... Hearing footsteps, he turned and saw that Alex twerp coming into the dorm row. The kid gave a ritual wave and started to squeeze by.
...... "Hey, wait!" Todd pointed to the shelf. "These are all for sale."
...... "Boy," said Alex, scanning the merchandise, "I didn't think water guns were even allowed here."
...... "They're not," said Todd. "But so what?"
...... Todd saw the glint of lust in Alex's eyes. "You like that gun, don't you?"
...... "It's awesome. But isn't selling them sort of risky?"
...... "Dad says successful entrepreneurs have to take risks."
...... "Your dad knows you're doing this?" said Alex.
...... Todd, seeing Alex's eyes widen, smiled inwardly. "Well, no. Not exactly." Todd gazed at Alex as an angler might look at a swimming fish. "But you like that water gun, don't you?"
...... "But what if a kid buys one and then gets busted. Wouldn't you get in trouble?"
...... "No." Todd raised his nose. "Amdexter kids don't rat." He sniggered. "They wouldn't dare! I'm a row prefect and my big brother's in the forth form." Todd could tell that Alex didn't like him. But who cares?
...... Alex looked up from the merchandise. "What's a row prefect?"
...... "It means I'm in charge here."
...... "What does it mean, in charge?"
...... Todd didn't like the kid's tone of voice. "It means that when you're here in dorm row 3E, you have to do what I tell you."
...... "And what if I don't?" said Alex in a voice filled with contempt.
...... "I can report you and you'll be punished." Todd's voice had a hard edge to it. This Alex kid had to be put in his place.
...... "So what?"
...... Todd quickly sized up the kid. Puny. No threat. "Or I could beat you up." Todd punctuated his threat by slamming closed his locker. "And nobody'll stop it because I'm a prefect."
...... "No way!"
...... "Way!" said Todd, sticking his nose in Alex's face.
...... "Eat worms, pig-face!" said Alex, holding his ground.
...... Todd balled a fist. He didn't tolerate anyone calling him names at school. I get enough of that at home. "Oh yeah!" Todd did a half-push, half-hit to Alex's shoulder.
...... Alex replied in kind, but pushed more energetically.
...... Todd lunged. Alex tried to dodge out of the way, but in the narrow confines of the dorm-row, he couldn't. Todd grabbed him and the two fell against a bunk and then ricocheted to the ground with Todd on top. Todd pummeled with his fists while Alex, on his back, kicked and thrashed ineffectively and tried to protect his head.
...... "Break it up," came a loud, deep voice. Then Todd felt himself pulled to his feet. He looked up and saw the House Master glaring at him.
...... The master then grabbed Alex roughly by the arm and drew him to his feet as well.
...... "All right," said the master, looking alternately at Todd and Alex. "What's this all about?"
...... "He called me a name," said Todd.
...... Alex looked down at his feet.
...... "Liddell." The master glowered at Todd. "You're a prefect this year. You should know better than to fight."
...... "Yes, sir."
...... The master turned to Alex. "You're a new boy here, aren't you?"
...... "You mean yes, sir."
...... "Yes, sir," said Alex in a voice hardly above a whisper.
...... "And what is your name, please?"
...... "Alex Griffin."
...... "Well then," said the Master. "Name calling and fighting are unacceptable at Amdexter School. Seriously unacceptable! Do you understand me, Griffin?"
...... "Yes sir."
...... "Fine!" He stepped back, allowing his gaze to include both boys. "Each of you. 100 lines. From Hamlet. And blue ink, please."
...... "Yes sir," said Todd. Alex though, wrinkled his nose in obvious puzzlement.
...... "Collected works of Shakespeare," said the master. "There are multiple reference copies in the library. And the library also has blue ballpoints you can borrow."
...... Todd watched in contempt. Alex still looked clueless.
...... "Copying out lines from Shakespeare is a punishment," said the master. "Monday morning, before assembly, you must hand in all the lines you've been given during the week to the office." He took a step in toward Alex--as if understanding could be enhanced by proximity. "Do you understand?"
...... "Yes, sir."
...... The master smiled. "Now, shake hands, please."
...... Todd didn't like the idea; it was just a normal, everyday fight, and a handshake seemed to elevate the matter to more importance than it deserved.
...... Todd and Alex glowered at each other while slowly extending hands. Todd moved his arm forward with great care, making sure his hand wasn't more advanced than was Alex's. The handshake itself was brief. Turning so the master couldn't see his face, Todd gave Alex a look of hate--to let the kid know that the handshake wasn't about to pave the way to a friendship, but was instead a declaration of war. I'll teach you not to get me into trouble.
...... "All right, then," said the master as he turned and walked away.
...... Todd watched him for a few seconds and then shifted his attention back to Alex. The kid was already at his bunk way over by the window.
...... Todd, burning with resentment over the punishment, glared ominously, but to no effect as Alex had his back to him.
...... The window caught Todd's attention. The trim of the little glass panes looked like prison bars. He imagined his father on the other side of them--unable to get in. Todd felt his lips tighten and stretch over his teeth. Then, across the quad, he noticed the lights from the ESAP dorm. An idea slowly began to form. Maybe he could turn this lines punishment to an advantage. Todd felt the edge of his lips raise to a grim smile. 'Seize the opportunity', his father had always said. Okay. Fine. I'll seize the opportunity.