“Do you want to talk today, Hercules?” Miss Kravitz asked. He had come in quietly and she was startled to see him when she looked up.
“Not really,” he said.
He set his chin is his hand and leaned a bit to the left as he looked out the window at all the kids playing kickball or Red Rover. He wondered what it would be like to join the other kids at recess.
All the kids surrounded them on the playground and laughed at Booger Wilson. Hercules the Greater didn’t laugh at all. He just looked down at Booger Wilson there on the ground. The side of his face was red and pebbles stuck to his cheek as he pulled himself up from the wet pavement. That day signaled the ascension of Hercules the Greater and the last happy day of school for Booger Wilson.
Hercules the Greater became popular overnight. Booger Wilson was abandoned by everyone. He just rolled himself up into a tight little ball of anger.
Mr. Kennedy pulled Hercules the Greater aside and told him he beat up Booger Wilson on the playground in front of everyone. That would be his revenge on Elrod Wilson without actually being dragged into the fracas.
Hercules the Greater didn’t want to fight Booger Wilson, but he knew he would have to do it sooner or later. He decided sooner was better so one crisp, autumn afternoon Hercules the Greater caught Booger Wilson on the playground behind General John G. Pershing Elementary School and – without warning – pushed him to the ground and began to kick him. All it took was three or four good kicks and Booger Wilson was red-faced and crying.
Hercules the Greater wanted to join the chess team. His father insisted on sports. He did what his father told him to do because he always did what his father told him to do. When they were in the third grade Hercules the Greater’s father took his SAAB to Wilson’s Auto Repair. Elrod Wilson – Booger’s father – had never worked on a SAAB, but he didn’t want to look stupid (plus money was always tight for the Wilson family). Despite his best efforts – he only made things worse which prompted Mr. Kennedy to extract some measure of revenge without getting his own hands dirty.
Hercules the Lesser sat quietly on the bench with his hands in his lap. His posture was good – not perfect. Miss Kravitz graded papers and hummed a tune that she learned when she was in elementary school.
After school Hercules the Lesser typically found his way down to Miss Kravitz’s classroom. She smiled when he she saw him. It was a welcoming smile. Hercules the Lesser only got those kinds of smiles from Miss Kravitz and Louise.
He walked in the room and sat on bench by the piano.
“I don’t feel like talking today, if it’s all the same you,” he said quietly.
“Do as you please, Hercules,” she responded equally quietly.
“Can I just sit here without talking?” he asked.
“Of course,” she replied.
“Can I press on the keys and make sounds?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“Can I sing?” he asked.
Then he giggled to himself. He knew he couldn’t sing.
“If you’d like to sing, by all means sing,” she said.
“I think I’ll sit here quietly and not talk anymore,” he said
“That will be fine,” she said with a smile.
Hercules the Lesser told Louise once – over a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy – that sometimes he wished he was Booger Wilson. Louise was dumbfounded. She reminded Hercules the Lesser that just about everyone General John G. Pershing Elementary School hated Booger Wilson – even some of the teachers. Hercules the Lesser told her that hate was better than apathy.
He didn’t envy Booger Wilson’s life – he just felt that being roundly hated was better than being roundly ignored. Louise thought differently but didn’t argue.