THE UNORDINARY LA PELLE (NKP05)

By Adya Agarwal Gupta

Jim LaPelle was short and ordinary. This is story of how he became an inspiration. Even though he was wildly clever, and maybe, because of it, he had never properly fit in. In fact, Jim was often bullied for it.

Zane, the big guy, rose to fame when he started bullying Jim. You see Jim got all the attention and that never settled well with Zane. Every time anyone would seek help from Jim, Zane would look up and roll his eyes in envy. Zane often needed help at schoolwork and it made him furious that the teachers asked Jim to help him out. That was when Zane started bullying Jim whenever he could find a chance.

Though Jim appeared to be a brave boy, he was actually easily frightened. Every day was one of fear, after the terrifying incident that occurred a few weeks before. I understand his fear. If a muscular boy like Zane retold an embarrassing story about me and attempted to cut off my finger, I don’t know what I’d do. But Jim did absolutely nothing. He simply took it. He simply let himself be bullied. Jim was helpless when it came to Zane. His fears lead him to believe that he had to remain silent, or else something unimaginably terrible would happen.

Every morning, he would walk into school in fear. He would follow the same ritual: slowly tiptoe inside and worriedly glance around- his furtive mental eye looking out for Zane. Seeing that he hadn’t arrived as yet, an immense feeling of relief would wash over Jim, as he waited patiently for Samuel, his closest confidant.

Jim nervously followed this routine this morning as well. The two boys were just about to make their way to their class, when Zane came smashing through! Running into school, he soon caught up with them. Jim stood in one spot, his lips pursed with a poker expression, as he endured the verbal humiliation. Soon, a small crowd of children had gathered, watching Jim being humiliated. Though most of them looked up to Jim, they were jeering and chuckling in mirth at his helplessness. Only very few had an expression containing disgust for Zane and utmost pity. Samuel had now looked around, his eyes widening. He hated big crowds, and being the center of attention. Hunching his shoulders, he inched closer to Jim, not wanting to be separated from his friend.

This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. Today, however, when Zane had completed his humiliation and the two friends turned to walk away, they were stopped. Only Jim was whisked around by Zane’s iron hand that hurt immensely, but Samuel stopped too. He couldn’t bear to leave his friend’s side in his time of need.

“Aww… Poor Jim and his little friend! They are too scared to stay.” Zane tutted, provoking Jim as he shook his head.

Jim and Samuel exchanged glances, wondering what was coming next.

“Yes?” Jim started. But any word out of him only seemed to make matters worse! A look of malice and anger crossed Zane’s eyes. Taking a leap at the lockers, he back-flipped onto the wall, almost severely injuring Jim.

Almost. I say almost, because Jim saved himself. Now, Zane was an expert at flips, so he hadn’t missed a step. Instead, Jim’s wrath seized him. Anger boiled inside him, bubbling into thick foam. The volcano shaking and trembling inside of him was about to explode. The fire, the lava from deep within was brewing. But, no matter how hard Jim tried to keep it within him, the volcano erupted. And the outcome was something very queer indeed.

Jim started shooting rapid Fireballs out. They were burning, blazing Fireballs! Not imaginary Fireballs too! Real ones. They appeared from his bare hands. It was a work of magic! But, how did he do it? Everyone asked that same question, but if Jim didn’t know it himself, how would anyone else?

Zane landed smoothly, but the bottom of his arm was clearly burnt now. You could see the purple swelling of a blooming bruise. The two rivals’ eyes met for a brief moment, then the look broke, as penetrating sound of the repetitive school bell rang shrill. It was time for the classes to begin. Samuel and Jim took their chance and walked away. However, Zane was not one to give up just there. In Zane’s mind, Jim had waged war to Zane. And Zane would have his own back. Yes, he would teach that two-bit-of-a-Jim and his loyal sidekick a lesson they would not forget.

Jim shyly edged away from the crowd of students, his eyes containing a hint of fear and utmost confusion. The Fireballs – why were they unleashed? What had stirred inside him so extreme? Jim asked himself and his friend all these questions, but found no answer.

In the recess, the two boys begun to talk excitedly.

“How’d you do that? Is it a magic trick? Or a super power?” Samuel prompted.

“I-I just don’t know. It’s definitely not a magic trick; I can’t do any magic. And superpowers don’t exist! How did I do that, Samuel?” Jim asked, repeatedly.

Samuel was as shocked as he was proud of his friend for having stood up, though he was worried this new discovery would lead Jim in the wrong direction. The conversation droned on, without drawing a proper conclusion.

“But, what caused it?” Jim started thinking.

“You were angry at Zane? Did it come out of anger?” Samuel excitedly suggested. His eyes widened slowly.

It had, indeed, come out of his anger. And Zane knew that, as well as everyone else.

“Don’t shoot any more fireballs…” Samuel was talking to Jim, advising him on his new ability. However, Jim was too anxious and excited to pay attention to these words. If he had listened, there would be no story.

Even though Zane was surprised and thoroughly taken aback by the result of Jim’s wrath, he had seen the indubitable look of confusion in Jim’s eyes as the two boys walked away from him. If he had the power to seize this confusion and turn it against Jim, Zane would have another excuse to torment Jim. If he could get Jim to display his anger and shoot Fireballs again, in front of other students and maybe even teachers, it would get Jim into more trouble! It could even get him suspended!

Zane decided to strike while the iron was hot and decided he would have to use Samuel as a prop. He needed bait to fish for the trouble.

Going past the school garden, Zane found the two boys seated in an empty classroom by themselves. “You know, this table has a sharp corner!” Zane threatened. “It wouldn’t hurt to move closer!”

Jim stayed firm on his chair, perturbed by Zane’s sudden appearance. Zane hauled Jim’s chair to the edge of the table, shoving him into the corner. It dug into Jim’s fleshy stomach. It hurt.

“You…” Jim breathed, first in pain and then feeling the anger rise. Zane was a bully and had made Jim’s life miserable. If it weren’t for Zane’s extreme covetousness, Jim would have no complaints in life. That fury once again boiled up inside of Jim, as he tried to clutch his inside, trying to push away the table. If the edge of the table had not continued to strike, he wouldn’t have reacted. Wishing furiously for the fireballs to come back, Jim had never expected that they would arrive. He had only wished for something bad to happen to Zane, though he was certain that nothing would. Instead, the fireballs appeared in his hands out of nowhere, and went straight for Zane.

“Jim! Don’t. Don’t shoot any more fireballs…” Samuel warned, just as the fireball was propelling through the air.

Jim had ignored that crucial warning from his good friend Samuel. Jim could have restrained. But, he had chosen not to.

Samuel was right behind Zane; the vibrant hues of chrome and vermillion flashed as Zane dived headfirst away and the fireball blazed Samuel’s arm instead.

Blood poured out like hailstorms, the bruise swelling up to become an ugly brownish purple.

“Oh, no!” Jim cried, wincing. He rushed to and fro in a desperate attempt to grab ice, a tissue and escort Samuel to the nurse’s office. But Samuel, burnt and extremely upset, stood up, adamantly.

“You didn’t listen to me. I warned you! But all you cared about was protecting yourself. Even if it meant it would hurt me.” Samuel yelled, storming off.

Jim slouched down, guilty. He was angry with himself. Gulping, a look of tragedy and guilt crawled into his eyes. He knew that it was his fault entirely this time. There was no one else to blame but himself. Jim was a young, selfless boy; but today, he had shown a different side of himself. One, not of generosity, but of selfishness. He had been foolish enough to let his anger control him. Had he now, along with his patience, lost a best friend?

He was extremely angry with himself. This was the outcome of a superpower unchecked.

For the first time, Jim sat alone for lunch. He was sitting at at the table directly opposite Samuel, who was now sitting with Zane. Samuel glanced reproachfully over at Jim, and then whispered something, that caused Zane and his other friends to burst into laughter. Jim shut his eyes tight, holding back tears. Zane, loved to see Jim suffer.

Looking down at the grey, hopeless cafeteria floor, he didn’t hear the footsteps approaching him.

“Come on, burn me again? Don’t you want to see me get hurt? That’s what you really wanted. Right? Let’s see what you have, you beastly Fire Dragon. After all, shooting fireballs is all you can really do, right?” Zane provoked Jim. Jim’s ears went red as the crowds gathered and cheered Zane on. He felt scared and angry again. He could almost feel another Fireball forming inside of him.

Zane waited, tapping his shoe expectantly, for another Fireball to be blown his way. Last time they were alone, but this time, he had arranged for his goons standing behind the scenes to film it all. This would be the nail in Jim’s coffin. But, Jim sat still. He was gritting his teeth and using all his power to hold himself back. His fingers were fiddling nervously in his lap. His instinct for survival and self-defense giving rise to intense anger born out of a mixture of fear and anxiety.

Zane continued to provoke him further. All Jim wanted to do was let loose the Fireballs and once and for all defeat this brute that tormented him day after day. He felt the fireballs bubble up ready to fly off at his command. In his mind’s ear he heard his beloved friends warning clearly now.

“Jim! Don’t. Don’t shoot any more fireballs…”

He hadn’t restrained before, but he was going to now. Zane noticed the hesitation and mocked him on. Slowly Jim got up and looked tall in spite of his short height. He stood there looking directly into Zane’s eyes. As their eyes met, without a word, Zane saw something new in Jim’s eyes. This look was not one of fear. It was one of dare and control. Zane knew he had pushed enough. Gritting his teeth unnoticeably, Zane held back tentatively before sighing and walking away.

As Jim saw Zane move away, he felt a tingle of victory stir within him. The Fireballs ebbed away. He knew that he had defeated Zane, once and for all. In the end, restraint was infinitely more effective that the Fireballs.

Samuel had seen this all unfold closely. Now his eye met Jim’s. He had, in his own way, forgiven Jim. He came up to Jim.

“Let’s go!” was all he said.

THE END