Romeo

I remember the year I was ten. When school started, everyone had moved up a grade, so boundaries and alliances shifted, like countries after a war. Soon it was all about the Baxters and the Turds. The Baxters were the boys in seventh and eighth grades. We were the Turds, boys in fifth and sixth grades. I was in fifth. Those four grades inhabited the four classrooms on the third floor of Limestone School, a square brick building that looked like a factory. The Baxters’ leader was Johnny Baxter. He wore a black leather jacket and had a flattop, and he was often smiling or smirking. Even when he frowned he looked like he was about to laugh. He was loud and witty. He never tried too hard. The teachers didn’t like him.

Who named them the Baxters? I guess we did. They gave us our name, the Turds. It made us mad, but we accepted it because we had to. They never used our real names. Each one of us was just Turd. When one of the Baxters yelled, “Hey, Turd,” we all turned our heads. There were other kids in the neighborhood, but anyone older than the Baxters moved in the orbit of the downtown high school, and those younger than the Turds didn’t matter.

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