fiction

Bob & Rosy – a short story

Bob&Rosie. Rated G. Originally posted on dreamwidth 08/2009.

Bob has one best friend. Too bad no one understands this.

All characters herein belong to me. Any similarities to persons living or dead is a coincidence.

It was chaos. Or. Maybe not chaos, but Mrs. Jamison was screaming, climbing up on her chair, hands white and tight over the back of it as she tried to get as high as possible. The rest of the kids were peering over curiously, a few of the girls shrieking as something big and black scuttled over the floor, heading for the door.

Bob stood at the front of the class, cheeks red and eyes wide as he watched. The shoebox in his hands hung there limply and it was another second before he sprang to life, tripping over his own feet as he made a beeline for the door that was open just a crack, just enough for… And she was gone.

Mrs. Jamison was gasping for breath on top of her chair and an excited babble broke out amongst the students. Bob hiked up his pants and wrenched open the classroom door, ignoring the frantic calls of the teacher behind him.

The hallway was desolate and only the distant murmurs of other classes was heard as Bob crept out, the shoebox now clutched tight in his small fist.

As he looked, he could feel his heart sinking. All he’d wanted to do was bring something cool for show-and-tell. Instead, it was turning into a disaster, just like the rest of his life.

At age seven, Bob wasn’t exactly the coolest kid in school. He wore khaki shorts a size too big and red-striped shirts. On good days, the rest of the kids would just play “Where’s Waldo” and point to Bob. On bad days he would get shoved down on the playground for standing too close to the basketball courts. Bob avoided any sport that involved balls (he’d been hit by most of them anyway: baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, dodgeball – name a ball, he’d been hit by it… even badminton birdies liked to hit him on the head occasionally).

For the most part, Bob preferred to keep to himself over by the swings, kicking the dirt underneath and swinging back and forth for the entire recess period. Sometimes he wished he could join in on the kids playing on the field, but as soon as a ball appeared, he retreated back to the swings.

Bob’s mother didn’t know what to do with him. He always stayed shut up in his room in their tiny apartment on the third floor. She tried persuading him to join a sport or a club, but Bob simply refused. He was not going anywhere near other kids who had balls.

He was always picked last in gym, and even when he managed to catch a ball without it hitting his face, he usually tripped over his own feet and ended up sprawled across the squeaky gym floor.

And now he had lost his pet and possibly his only friend in the entire world.

Rosy had been a gift from his dad, one of the times he’d actually taken Bob out of their apartment. Bob didn’t say anything, but he’d heard his parents arguing the night before about him and his dad, how his dad never spent any time with him. The shouting had been loud through the paper thin walls, and Bob hadn’t really been surprised when his dad took him out the next afternoon.

They’d ended up at Harry’s Happy Hoppers, a deceiving name since Harry was neither happy nor were there rabbits in his store.

The pet shop was down on the corner from Bob’s apartment and the windows were always dark, but Bob usually slipped in here after school and before his parents noticed he wasn’t home.

The walls were full of cages, some with hamsters running around in squeaky wheels, others with loud birds squawking in his ears whenever he walked past. Bubbling fish tanks took up the back wall and Harry was usually staring intensely at the Angel fish whenever Bob came in.

To be perfectly honest, Harry scared Bob a little, and Bob tried his best to skirt around him, hiding in his favorite section of the store.

His dad had opened the door and pushed him inside, looking around, bored, at the animals on the walls. A littler of puppies were barking in a pen near the register, but Bob ignored them, heading straight for the dark corner lit only by fluorescent cage lights, shining on the big boa constrictor, the green tree frogs, even the little geckos sunning themselves on the fake rocks.

“Pick something out,” his dad had said, picking at his fingernails and huffing at the tanks.

Looking back, Bob supposed his mother hadn’t expected him to come home with a shoe box and all the other accoutrements needed to take care of a tarantula.

After she’d shrieked and tripped backwards over the living room coffee table, she pulled herself up and just accepted it, although she refused to clean Bob’s room after that.

Bob had only smiled up hopefully, holding the box tight while the spider scuttled around inside.

Rosy, Bob was proud to say, was a great pet. She was calm and gave him an excuse to visit the pet store as often as he liked, to buy crickets and mealworms and other food stuffs. His mother, once she had gotten over the initial shock (and after a whispered but still audible fight with his dad in the bathroom, in which she’d accused him of being too immature to raise a child and he’d responded by saying he was only twenty-four), went so far as to help Bob set up the tank for Rosy, but refused to actually touch her.

Bringing Rosy to show-and-tell had been Bob’s idea, and it was looking like a worse and worse idea by the minute as he crept quietly down the hallway looking for her.

He’d just been standing up at the front of the class, the box at his feet as he’d tried to explain what he was showing – Bob wasn’t very good at public speaking either. He’d already felt flush just being called up by Mrs. Jamison and having to stutter over his words.

“T-today, I-I-I brought my p-pet sp-spider,” he’d managed to spit out, swallowing nervously and staring down at Rosy’s box on the floor. “Her name is R-R-Rosy.”

His heart had been pounding against his ribcage, battering in his chest as he tried not to hear the way the girls gasped and the boys peered forward eagerly.

“Show us, Robert,” Mrs. Jamison prompted gently, sitting at her desk, hands folded neatly on top. Her wiry, grey hair was pulled up into a bun and she waited patiently.

With trembling hands, Bob had stretched down for the box and picked it up, pulling back the loose top of the box.

A gasp met his ears before he could even register that the box was empty.

“Aaaah!” A scream broke the silence and Bob’s head snapped down to see Rosy at his feet, shuffling sideways and then taking off with surprising speed.

After that… chaos.

Listening carefully, eyes searching into every dark corner of the hall, Bob started to worry. He could feel the sweat on his brow, the box slipping in his hand as he shuffled along. The hallway was brightly lit with multi-colored paintings and pieces of artwork hung outside each classroom. He could only hear the murmur of other classes as he walked.

Rosy was his best, and only, friend, and Bob hated to think what might happen if an unfriendly foot found her somewhere in the halls of Springbrook Elementary.

Pulling his pants back up, he crept along the walls quietly. He had to find her.

A scream up ahead, inside one of the other second grade classrooms wrenched his attention away from the walls and he stumbled upright, staring at the door right across from him. There was more screeching from inside and someone yelling.

“Ew! Kill it!”

Eyes widening, Bob barreled forward, bursting through the cracked door and staring around the room.

The girls were screaming and crying, and the boys were chasing after something big and black. Slamming the door, Bob jumped into the fray, pushing boys out of the way.

“Stop it!” he shouted, voice rising above the others, but they paid him no attention, continuing their chase of Rosy, who skittered away from them, back over to where the girls were up on their little desks, clinging each other and sobbing.

Bob pushed the boys back, launching himself over a desk, but only getting a very angry bruise to his side as he fell with a clunk on the floor.

Rubbing his elbow mournfully, he whipped around to look for Rosy. She had disappeared, but that didn’t mean anything. The boys were all crowded in the last corner she’d been in.

Crawling to his feet, Bob searched hastily, grabbing his shoe box from where it had fallen by the door. His cheeks were red from all the running and jumping and he panted out breath as he stared around.

The girls on the desks were still looking scared. The teacher, one Bob didn’t know, was trying to calm everyone down, although her face was drained of color too as she shushed the girls and tried to herd the boys back to their seats.

Then Bob saw her; Rosy was backed into the darkest corner and a girl was standing over her, staring down. No one seemed to have noticed, and Bob cried out as the girl bent down and plucked Rosy from the ground in one swift movement.

His mouth open, he stumbled over to the girl, staring as she turned to him.

A piece of brown was falling out of her ponytail, hanging in her eyes as she blinked at him, wrinkling her nose. The freckles across her cheeks moved as she smiled.

“Yours?” she asked, and Bob could only nod dumbly. The girl smiled, taking the box from Bob’s hands and setting Rosy down gently.

“Caroline!” the teacher called sharply, coming over from her desk and setting a hand on the girl’s shoulder. Her hand was pressed to her chest as she breathed out slowly. “And who are you?” she asked, looking at Bob, who hastily shoved the lid on tight to the shoe box.

“B-Bob,” he mumbled, not meeting her eyes. “I’m s-sorry.”

“Where do you belong, Bob?” she asked, and Bob glanced up for just a second before looking away. Instead, his eyes met Caroline, who was watching him curiously, hazel eyes blinking slowly.

Tearing his eyes away and hanging his head at the floor, clutching Rosy’s box tightly. He could feel her shuffling around and felt better.

“Mrs. Jamison’s class,” he mumbled, hearing the breakout of whispering behind him.

The teacher paused, gazing down at him. He tugged up his shorts again, and she sighed.

“Caroline, will you please go with Bob back to his room?”

“Yes, Ms. Rupert,” Caroline replied, already leading the way back to the door.

Bob trailed after, feeling stupid and dragging his feet. Outside in the hall, Caroline stepped up beside him, arms swinging at her sides, brushing against her blue dress.

“What’s its name?” she asked as they walked, keeping close to the wall.

Bob hesitated, shrinking a little towards the wall. “R-Rosy,” he said finally, swallowing carefully and tightening his grip on the box.

“She’s pretty,” Caroline said, gazing curiously at Bob. She smiled when he met her eyes for a fraction of a second.

“She’s a M-Mexican Redleg tarantula,” he responded carefully, squeezing the box and shuffling towards Mrs. Jamison’s classroom.

Caroline blinked, brushing her hair back, and Bob watched the tiles on the floor instead, stepping over the cracks carefully.

“I’ve seen you,” Caroline said finally, watching Bob closely as he faltered in his steps, barely managing to catch himself before he face-planted in the hallway. “On the swings.” She paused, watching him stumble upright. “Why don’t you play with anyone?”

“I-I do,” he said, not really sure why he was lying to her.

“No, you don’t,” she replied simply, and Bob flushed, praying to reach Mrs. Jamison’s room soon. “Why not?”

He jerked his shoulders in response, concentrating on the floor.

Caroline paused as they reached his room. It was quiet inside, and Bob hated to think of the trouble he was going to get into for this. It had been hard enough to convince his mom to let him take Rosy to school in the first place.

He stretched out his hand to reach for the doorknob, and Caroline smiled.

“Bye, Bob,” she said as he got the door open. She left before he could say anything to her, already skipping back to her class.

Staring after, he didn’t know what the strange feeling was as he watched her leave.

Back in the classroom, he got a talking to, and he went home that night with the lingering giggles of his classmates ringing in his ears. He didn’t speak when his mom asked how his day was. Instead, he ducked into his room and put Rosy back into her terrarium, dumping a few crickets in for her sake. He didn’t come out until dinner time, and even then, he didn’t speak.

He heard his parents arguing that night, raised voices through the walls about how he wasn’t social and how it couldn’t be good for someone of his age. Bob just stuffed the pillow over his head and fell asleep to images of Caroline standing with Rosy in her hand, freckles ghosted over her cheeks and her nose wrinkled in a smile.

The next day, Bob dragged himself to school and sat through a whole morning of subtraction (which he hated, almost as much as he hated sports). When they were finally released for afternoon recess, Bob just wanted to go home and sit up in his room talking to Rosy.

The rest of the boys in his class ran past him, a few not bothering to go around and knocking him on the shoulder as they passed, heading for the field.

Bob didn’t even bother. Instead, he headed for the swings, dragging his feet and watching the dark blacktop. He didn’t look up as he reached the swingset and headed for his usual swing.

Jumping, he was shocked to find someone else sitting on his swing, legs kicking at the dirt underneath it.

Caroline tilted her head to the side, blinking in the sun as he stared.

“How’s Rosy?” she asked, and Bob knew his mouth was hanging open.

He didn’t know what to say for a moment as he stood there and Caroline pushed off a little from the ground.

“Uh, f-fine,” he stuttered finally, still standing in front of her.

She smiled, swinging a little higher.

“Want to see who can go the highest?” she asked, hands curled around the chain.

Bob didn’t speak for a second, mixed emotions running through his head, but in the end, he took the swing next to Caroline and pushed off the ground.

“So,” Caroline asked after a minute or two of silence. “What’s your favorite color?”

Bob paused, glancing over at her. She was wearing a red dress today with black ladybugs printed all over it.

“R-red,” he replied finally, and Caroline smiled, pumping the swing higher, and Bob followed.

*

FIN.

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