THE BULLY SQUAD: Trophy Hunting at Harrington High
My name’s Clayton, and I’m the bait. I was born with no left leg, no fingers on my left hand, and three fingers on my right hand. The doctors turned one of my fingers into a thumb, so I can grab things. What I’m really good at though, is acting like a victim. I’m a total bully magnet, they don’t even realize what’s happening to them. But right now I’m actually hiding, like not an act, like really, for real hiding inside the paper mache T-Rex in the school’s theater, because I just broke the Golden Rule.
Oh man, they just came in. Still mode. It’s all about being relaxed. Normally I’m the best at still mode, but right now... man, Millie’s gonna kill me. I’m in this stupid crouch with most of my weight on my right leg because my fake one didn’t land quite right. But there’s a little crack in the back of the T-rex’s throat I can see through.
Ben is so angry, I never shoulda, oh man, and Charlie and Tess, we had them both, we had them... If I could just reverse time by about twenty minutes, just go back and not press the send button. Just this once. I could travel through time and... Ben just yelled, “Shut up!”. So now Charlie and Tess are copying him, listening. Still mode. Still mode. I’m gonna have to close my eyes. Listen to the void. Breath slowly, let my thoughts pass by. Oh my god, I’m falling over!
Okay, before I tell you what happens next, cause it gets really messy, I’m just going to step out of this moment to fill you in on some details, like about why I had to hide in the T-Rex, and that means I need to tell you all about The Bully Squad. We’re basically secret agents. We work for a secret non-profit organization called Holden Group, very hush hush. Okay, I hear you asking why I’m telling you all these secrets. Yes, I can totally hear you, okay?
So check this, I’m telling you because I’m gonna need your help. After I fall over, something’s gonna happen which I’m gonna have no clue how to deal with, and that’s when you need to help me. No, seriously! You’ve got to believe me! You’ll know when. So that’s why I’m telling you all this. Where was I? Oh yes, Holden Group, teachers, principals—only the cool ones though! And our mission? It’s simple. I actually think it sounds a little cheesy, but… well, here goes. Our mission is to help kids have fun.
I see that look! I can see you in my head. We learned that. Fun is like a key part of being a kid, most adults have forgotten, but it’s the best way we learn. And what’s one of the biggest things that sucks the fun out of being a kid? You guessed it. Bullies. So, that’s our mission.
My squad has a proven method to take down bullies. We steal their followers first, the bully’s trophies as we call them. We steal their trophies one by one until the bully’s got no back. We just roll with it, like ninjas, no one even knows we were there.
But I’ve totally screwed it all up with Ben. Ben Carnahie, I can barely say his name, Ben, Ben is the bully. Ben’s got this thing for theater kids, torments the hell outta them. He posts comments in a way that is so subtle, so barely… To be honest, the only reason we noticed Ben was because this girl almost killed herself. Horrible. And it never got back to him! I hate it. Ben is so, so mean, I think he might be truly evil.
Which is totally opposite of the basic truth that all bullies are posers! But Ben ain’t faking it. Like right now, he actually wants to beat me up, old school.
The way it’s supposed to work on our team is that I’m the bait. And our leader, Greg, he slips in with the bully’s trophies no problem, like a trojan horse. Millie is the greaser, an influencer, she’s got mad social skills. And Keisha’s got some sort of magic voodoo eyes which she can twinkle at people to get them to do things, total charmer.
Basically Millie and Keisha set the traps and Greg and I steer our targets right into them. It’s...
Whoa! You’re totally interrupting me with all your questions. Chill. The most important thing to remember about The Bully Squad is that we follow the Golden Rule. I mean you probably heard about it already ‘cause it’s like Egypt old. I’ll try to make it less cheesy for you. The Golden Rule: If you want folks to be cool to you, then be cool to them. Study that!
Now, when we started on Ben, he had four trophy followers. Our traps for the first two sprung perfectly. It’s all about hidden desires and opportunities to have real friends.
The first trap was for one of Ben’s followers named Jonah Thompson. Jonah has a super secret robot laboratory in his basement, he loves robots! Easy. Charming Keisha mixed with the gadget kids, Millie the greaser dropped posts about robots and wore hella robot jewelry, and Greg, our inside man, threw just enough salt on Ben to Jonah that when I did my baitfish thing, luring them through the Library where the Constructor Club was meeting, Keisha was able to wave Jonah over with her voodoo twinkle, and he was caught hook, line, and sinker. Trophy stolen.
That's how we roll.
The next one of Ben’s followers we went after was this seemingly really nasty girl, Carly Shannahorn. So, check this, Carly, secretly, has always wanted to be on student council. For real. She actually imagines herself campaigning and having super serious discussions about spirit week.
So for Carly, we convinced the Vice Principal of Harrington to create a new position on the student council, Spirit Coordinator. We worked our tricks to get Carly to run, and when Millie backed her, Carly Shannahorn was a shoe-in. Second Trophy Stolen.
Ben’s last two trophies, Charlie Kass and Tess Billingsly, were gonna be a double whammy ‘cause, bottom line, they’re both really good at drawing. They’ve just never shown anyone! Classic. We’d set the trap for them, but that’s when Ben decided to post about my mom.
He’d started coming after me as soon as I got cast in the school play, Jurassic High. And I get it—new kid, freshman, three fingers, star of the school play? Bait.
I was a beacon for Ben. Now, the thing that makes Ben Carnahie amazingly talented at being horrible is his posts look totally fine, even helpful or complimentary. Unless your the person he’s posting about. When you’re that person, your throat lumps up and you feel like punching him in the nose. That is not the way the Golden Rule works though. I’m trained, I should be impenetrable, nothing he could have done should have bothered me a single bit.
I need to remind you, I don’t care I’m unique. Everyone’s unique, I’m just much more interesting to look at. I know that because people stare at me. Getting teased about my appearance, I straight laugh at that now, those are just fools. But still, most people can’t get past the way I look. You know what surprises me? When someone just looks at me, and asks, “What’s up with your hands?”
All you gotta know is that the body I have is like my main superpower.
So as soon the cast list got announced, Ben posted a picture of me. I didn’t notice when he took it, cause I was talking to the coolest theater girl in school, Mona Robbins. It wasn’t a bad pic, but I’m just sorta, barely, flailing like an octopus. His comment was ‘Bold choices for casting this spring! Bravo!’
Seems okay, right? I was like, whatever, nice try. But his posts about me became relentless—almost like a fan trying to be helpful, grinding away at me.
Anytime a post of Ben’s gets questioned by an adult, he kills them with sugar. He’s got really good words, incredibly cunning. That’s why I think he might actually be evil, not a poser. He’s smarter than any bully I’ve ever heard of. Usually they’re mid-range at best. But the way Ben came after my mother was so subtle. He started by posting about random things from like fifteen, sixteen years ago when we were all being born. These posts were so off-target, how could I tell he was circling around to my mom? Evil I tell you.
Then he dropped the bomb.
Everyone saw it, but just me and mom knew what Ben Carnahie was actually saying with his comment, ‘Mothers took drugs to ease their morning sickness and look what they got instead. Tragic.’
Noone at Harrington knows that’s why I look the way I look! I keep it a secret because my Mom has been blamed so many times by so many people and it wasn’t her fault. Remember, I like the way I am. I don’t want to be like everyone else. And my mom is one of the coolest people in the world. It was not her fault that she got prescribed that horrible morning sickness drug. She’s punished herself more than anyone. It was like the hardest thing in the world for me to get her to realize that I’m okay, that I’m a normal kid.
But her face crumpled when she saw that post. She lifted her hand to her mouth, then she gave me that poser smile.
So I hacked into Ben’s phone. That’s right. And I copied some pictures that I knew he had. Don’t ask. And about 23 minutes ago, I flew out of class. Millie tried to catch me, but I’m very fast. I B-lined out to the quad straight towards Ben, my eyes fixed on him like lasers. He gets that startled look bullies get when their victims aren’t playing the victim anymore. I get to him and I hold my phone up in his face. Then I pressed send.
I could feel the ripples on the quad as the post landed. Then the laughing started. I’d posted ten pictures of Ben in really elaborate homemade costumes posing super theatrically. The last picture was the zinger though. He’d made a costume like the one I wear in Jurassic High, and then he posed like me, making his hands like mine are. But the thing about these photos is how serious Ben is taking himself. He’s actually trying to do a good acting job, and because he’s trying so hard, he looks just ridiculous.
Ben stood there sorta stunned as the laughter started. Everyone, I mean everyone, was laughing at him. Then his face quivered. That’s when I realized what I’d done. I’d broken the Golden Rule.
I didn’t have time to try to fix it though, because that quiver turned into rage face. His hands clawed out and shot at me. I ran hella fast. My fake leg has a little curved piece I can pop down which gives me mad hops. I was headed towards the theater, so I veered in, and there’s the T-Rex which I thought would be the perfect hiding place. And it was! Except that the little curved piece on my leg got stuck, and then Ben comes in, and I just barely lean to the right, and this stupid dinosaur starts tilting. And here we are, back to where, where I’m like, Oh my god! I’m falling!
I’m totally going down! Stuck in a T-rex.
I’m embarrassed to say that this is when I start yelling, real loud. Aaaahh!
Wow, I must sound like a dinosaur, because Ben and them look horrified. Charlie’s starting to scream even.
Oh my god, here it comes! I’m crashing into the ground! The T-Rex is exploding! Paper mache is flying everywhere!
Hey! I’m okay! It didn’t hurt! Oh crap, Ben sees me. He’s running at me. His fists are balling up and he’s like scream-growling. “No Ben! No!” Oh my god, he’s gonna leap-punch me, gangland style! “No Ben!”
Here it comes!
But then, (I can’t see this cause I’m covering my head), then my boy Greg, the trojan horse, the man, leaps out from behind the theater curtain, catches Ben mid-flight and tackles him to the ground. I peek between my fingers. Wow.
Charlie and Tess look really confused. Greg jumps up and stands over Ben. “Wait, wait, wait,” he says, holding his hands out. “Ben, watch!”
From all around, out of the dark corners, the cast of Jurassic High steps out into the light. Oh my god, it’s an intervention! I’m gonna have so much paperwork...
Millie and Keisha slip in and stand next to me as I get to my feet. Then everyone is super quiet.
Ben looks totally confused too now. “What is this?” he asks. Then he says to Greg, cause Greg is obviously not the Greg he’s come to know,
“Who are you? Who are you?”
“Ben,” Greg says, “everything’s cool, nothing matters, just take a chance.”
Oh god, this is just like an after school special. Shh. Don’t laugh!
Look, Greg’s offered his hand to help Ben up. And Ben takes it! He actually lets Greg help him to his feet! Oh, but I can see his mind grinding still, he’s glancing around, glancing at me. He’s too smart, he’s gonna outthink this. Yup, see, he’s taking a step back from Greg, he’s gonna bolt.
But then Mona, Mona Robbins, that cool theater girl I told you about, she crosses center and says, “Wait Ben.” Her voice is classic raspy cool, so it’s really hard not to listen when she’s talking. “Look,” she says, “we love doing theater. And by we, I mean me, and her and him and... and you. We didn’t know you’re an actor. But now we do, so you’re one of us.”
She takes a step towards Ben and says, “We don’t care about being cool. All we want is to do theater. And really, isn’t this what you want?”
Ben’s mind is racing.
Mona asks him again, “Ben, isn’t that what you want?”
He’s nodding! Oh my god, he’s nodding! Say it!
And he does!
“Yes,” he says. “Yes I want that.”
Wow. I love it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and forever.
Everyone is clapping, even Charlie and Tess, who are gonna fit right in with the art kids. Total after school special.
Mona cuts the clapping with a hand raise and says, “Let’s get to it then. Ben, we’re gonna start rehearsing right now, because we’ve got to get you up to speed.”
“What am I gonna do?” he asks.
“Your gonna polish your skills because we want you to take over for Clayton in the play.”
Then Ben looks at me and says, “Wait, what’s wrong with Clayton? He’ll do a great job?”
And there it is. He’s like a new person. When it works, it works.
Mona explained to Ben that I can’t do the play anymore because I have to switch schools. That my family is moving into a new home in a different school district. He looked over at me, like actually bummed out, but I just shrugged like, it’s cool... new school, whatever.
And so then basically the drama teacher came in and swept Ben right into rehearsals for the rest of the day, running lines, talking character, blocking scenes... Man, Ben loved every minute of it. It was like he just needed to be pulled through a thick curtain into a whole new world.
That’s what we do! Turnin’ bullies into heroes. We totally belong on Sesame Street.
But for real, I wish Bully Squads could be everywhere. So many kids have crappy childhoods because of bullies, or because they are a bully. It’s serious. But by helping Ben, we might’ve just helped the next Da Vinci find his canvas. I’m not messin’, inside every bully, there’s the heart of a hero.
Okay you, I’m on my last day at Harrington High, and I didn’t tell you this because I thought nothing would come of it, I’m a secret agent after all, but… But, I met a girl.
Oh come on, I’m totally professional. Normally on a mission when a girl slides up, I’m like, sorry babe…
This time I couldn’t walk away. Savannah...she is...uh... She’s in the school play, and yes, she was at the intervention, and... Look, Savannah, this babe functions on a whole nother level. She’s like the summer sky to my winter night. No, she’s more than that, she’s like Detective Poirot and Wonder Woman mashed together. She’ll curl her mustache at you, and then rip the truth out of you with her magic lasso. And this bad ass queen is all about the Earth, she’s like Golden Rule to the Earth, double rainbow.
And I think she actually likes me. That’s right. We started eating lunch together and stuff. I’ve kept it totally professional, but this girl is so beautiful to me. All I want to do is tell her who I really am. A secret agent. But I haven’t. I’d get fired.
Okay, here she comes. She’s walking across the quad shaking her finger at me. What the hell am I gonna say? Okay, here she is. Oh my god, she’s pushing me! She’s grabbing my shirt and she’s whispering, “What? Are you part of some secret club or something? Don’t lie to me!”
I wish you could see her like I see her. She’s so powerful, like a force of nature. But I’m made of steel. I’m just gonna walk away, right? Tell her she’s tripping? Babe you got it all wrong?
Look I’m actually really asking you, this isn’t part of some silly story.
Don’t be so confused! Just tell me, do I walk away? Do I tell her the truth?
Shoot, you’re no help at all, I guess I’ll just do the sorry babe thing…
Wait, what? Did you just say the Golden Rule? Wow, maybe you were listening. And yes, your totally right, I would want her to be honest with me, as honest as she could be. You sound hella cheesy! But we love it, right?
Okay, I’m gonna do it. Here goes.
“...um I really really like you Savannah, and I really want to see you again, I’m not moving far and, um, maybe we can just not worry about all that other stuff for a minute?”
She leans closer, “You really like me?”
“Ya, I ...” Oh my God! She’s kissing me!
And the rest is for my eyes only. Comin’ at you live, from Harrington High, Secret Agent Clayton Fong… Signing out.