It became a matter of honor on Monday because my friend Jimmy had a thing for Lily and I said something not so complimentary about her in front of him. He pushed me back. I swung my bag at him. The bell rang for recess at that moment and we got separated by the rush of students heading back to the classrooms. But not before Jimmy’s warning reached me through the crowd: “This ain’t over yet, Vick.”
The next day Jimmy flew at me with a fruit knife that he had stolen from the canteen as soon as break started and everybody had poured out of our sixth grade class into the hallway. I ducked under and then did a back somersault to get out of his way. While I was coming out of my flip I grazed my forehead on a door knob and got a small nick on my forehead.
Jimmy advanced slashing like a maniac and I couldn’t have kept ducking so it was a good thing that I had retained a pair of nunchucks from the gym closet. Off we went, banging and clanging, his metal against my wood, doing rolls and splits down the corridor to sidestep each other’s blows. We were both so evenly matched, neither was making headway, when someone shouted out: “Mrs. Dollop is coming down the stairs!”
We parted from frenzied combat for a moment and the students went back into their normal mode of behavior until Mrs. Dollop went out the door at the other end of the passage. As soon as she exited, everyone lined up by the walls and Jimmy and I resumed our engagement. Finally, the school bell rang out the end of the round.
On Wednesday morning at the breakfast table at home, I saw the water tower glint at me through the window. I immediately went up and closed the curtains.
“Is it too much to ask for some sunshine?” asked my father, folding the newspaper next to his coffee cup.
“Uh, Jimmy’s up at a height with an air rifle pointed at me,” I said. “It’s about a little tiff we had at school.”
I finished my breakfast, threw on a bullet-proof vest and dashed out to the school bus when it came. Once I reached school, I took off the vest. I wasn’t worried about Jimmy shooting at me there, as there was a metal detector for firearms at the entrance. If he brought a gun, I knew, and Jimmy knew, that he would be caught, arrested and expelled.
All of Thursday at school was spent in an uneasy calm. The classes on history, arts and civics passed by in the anticipation of incidents which never happened. The recess was tense but uneventful, in spite of a couple of guys trying to get something started by feeding Jimmy and me rumors about each other.
I was doing my homework in the evening when I heard a rumbling noise outside our house. My little sister Dina came running in and said there was a battle tank coming up the street. I didn’t have to guess who was inside it.
“Wonder how he got his hands on that thing,” I said under my breath to myself.
“Off Craigslist, where else?” said my mother. “Honey, didn’t we tell you not to pick fights at school?”
I hustled them all into the basement, calling out to my father as they descended the steps: “Dad, do you remember where we had stockpiled the anti-tank grenades?”
“Next to the laundry detergent,” came his answer from the depths of the stairwell.
I went and found them, took the pins out of a few, and lobbed them outside.
After a while, I went out and found Jimmy gone. So was most of our porch, though, and the car had a big dent where the tank had jostled it.
“Schooling you is proving to be expensive,” said my father, shaking his head after inspecting the damage.
On Friday Jimmy declared on social media that he had acquired a small nuclear warhead and was going to obliterate my part of town with it. Along with me, of course.
We informed the municipality and they took prompt notice. Those who could fled the township. Those who wanted to stay had their pools rebuilt into strategic bunkers.
I thought it better to play safe, so I packed everybody at home into a capsule, which I launched into space from our backyard. Going to the moon would have been safer, but it takes three days to fly one way. And I had a math exam on Monday that I was still hoping to make, as I needed the credit. We circulated in low orbit instead, which Dina claimed was not as exciting.
By Saturday though I had had enough and started getting the craving to spend my weekend in a more relaxed fashion. After pondering over it for a while I tendered a public apology to Jimmy over Instagram reached via satellite link. I said he had more than displayed his chivalric intentions and that I respected his show of power. Jimmy was generous enough to accept my offer.
“Between two gentlemen,” he said.
By Sunday we were restored to our house, everybody else in town had flown back in, and things were pretty much back to normal. My dad expended some time haggling with various masons around the area before deciding whom to hire for the repair work. I spent the day cramming for my math exam.
On Monday, the first lesson was geography. Mr. Dawson, who was teaching, had been out of town the past week. When he saw the Band-Aid on my forehead he couldn’t resist poking: “Vicky, did you get into another scrape while I was gone?”
“I’m afraid so,” I said, “Mr. Dawson.”
I could hear my classmates restraining their snickers.
“I see,” he said. “And what was this one about?”
“Oh nothing,” I said.
Mishkat Bhattacharya writes out of Rochester, NY. His fiction has been published in The Antioch Review and Muse India.