VIII. 9 years ago
Cooper was not a fan of Wyoming. It wasn’t that he hated the state itself, in fact, he loved the outdoors and Wyoming has a natural fantastic outdoor playground. His dislike had more to do with how bored he was at school and how even after seven years he didn’t fit in. Wyoming still wasn’t what he would call home. Nothing at school excited or challenged him. He finished his work quickly and efficiently. The other students didn’t have the same interests as him. He was able to keep in frequent touch with Malone and despite the distance they were still best friends. Although he knew Malone didn’t understand much of most topics that interested him Malone at least listened. Plus, they had history together. They had spent time pre-fever as Cooper referred to the incident. Malone’s mom agreed to let her son travel to Wyoming during the upcoming summer break to see his Wyoming friend. Both boys were excited for that visit. Trouble was that was still a few months away. For now, Cooper sat in a classroom trying to will the clock to tick faster.
When the bell finally did ring, he rushed out into the hallway and bumped into Kendrick Mills. Kendrick was a football player which was convenient because he had a football player’s body. He looked like he was a grown man. However, his maturity level often swung on the other side of the spectrum. He also happened to be one of Cooper’s least favorite people. That all stemmed from a particular incident when Cooper walked down the wrong hallway and witnessed Kendrick slapping his girlfriend.
“Baldwin,” Kendrick grunted because speaking more than one syllable at a time seemed difficult for him.
“Mills,” Cooper responded mimicking the same bravado.
Kendrick smiled smugly. “You in some kind of hurry, boy?”
Cooper rolled his eyes. “We’re the same age.”
“You know, I never did like you.”
“Straight to the point,” Cooper said walking away. “I can live with that.”
Kendrick’s face grew red and he put his massive arm out to stop Cooper.
Cooper looked down at the arm and remembered the show he watched the night before. It was a DC comic show that happened to feature some fighting. He replayed a particular scene in his head and then imitated the move. Much to his surprise, it worked and Kendrick ended up on the floor.
“What do you know about that?” Cooper said with a smile.
Kendrick shook off the surprise and stood up. He glared at Cooper.
“All right then, nice talking to you,” Cooper said confidently and gave Kendrick a short wave.
“I’m not done yet,” Kendrick said and grabbed Cooper’s shoulder.
Unfortunately for Kendrick, Cooper had watched a fairly explicit fight scene. To add to the football player’s bad luck, one of Cooper’s gained skills after the fever was a high retention and reaction rate. But his antagonist knew none of this. His only thought at the moment was a long-haired punk was embarrassing him in front of other students. As a last resort, Kendrick pulled back his fist and aimed at Cooper’s face. But Cooper ducked at the right moment and Kendrick’s fist hit the brick wall behind Cooper. A few people nearest the altercation swore they could hear bones breaking with the impact. That only made Kendrick angrier. What little power he may have had to think clearly was gone and he charged at Cooper. With relative ease Cooper maintained an upper hand throughout Kendrick’s sloppy attempts to teach him a lesson. At the end of the fight, a couple of teachers found Kendrick doubled over with not only a broken hand but also a black eye and bloody lip.
Cooper stood over him with his own black eye which truth be told he was pretty proud of. In the end, they both ended up with detention. They would have gotten suspended but it was Cooper’s first time of doing any such thing and Kendrick’s mom was on the school board.
When Jo arrived to pick up his son he hid his pride in the fact that Cooper had stood up to the bully.
They drove home in silence until they pulled in the driveway.
“Talk to me, son, tell me what is going on. This isn’t you.”
Cooper flinched at his mother’s phrase. She was the one that always insisted on him talking and explaining what was going on inside his head. Her talent was to get him talking without him realizing what she was doing. To be fair, his dad had tried to pick up the slack since his mom died but it always felt a bit more intrusive when his dad tried getting him to talk. Plus, Cooper was getting older. He was no longer a kid that needed to sort things out for his parents. Some things he wanted to keep to himself.
“I don’t know,” Cooper started.
“If you don’t know, who does?” His dad asked looking out the car window into the garage.
“Kendrick is a bully, dad. He deserved it.”
His dad looked at him. “He deserved to have his hand broken?”
Cooper rolled his eyes and played with the window button. “No, that’s not what I meant. I just mean he deserved to be put into his place.”
Jo nodded. “There are always going to be people out there you don’t agree with. People who handle things differently than you. People that you will be superior to in thought and action.”
Cooper looked at his dad.
“That’s because of this,” Jo put his hand on the temple of his forehead. “You have smarts, son, the like I’ve never seen before. And I’m proud of you for that. But what I’m most proud of is this,” he put his hand on Cooper’s chest and tapped it. “You have a big heart. Never take advantage of someone, anyone, just because you can. Promise me you will use your head and heart to work out solutions when you can.”
Cooper thought about it for a moment. He wasn’t sure but he thought his dad just paid him a compliment. And though he didn’t use the word, he thought in his own way his dad expressed his love for him. “I promise, dad.”
Jo nodded his head again. “Now, not to confuse the situation but I do have to say I am proud of you for standing up to that bully.” He opened the car door but added, “where did you learn to fight like that?”
Cooper smiled. “Dad, your son is a nerd, you know. I have watched my fair share of Marvel and DC comic movies.”
Jo grunted because he thought his son was kidding. Obviously, his son must have been involved in some extracurricular activity he was unaware of.
But Cooper was totally serious. He had watched the movies and reenacted the fight scenes at home. Every move had been practiced until he perfected each movement. Granted, he never expected to use any of the moves on another person. But at the moment he was glad he did.
Meanwhile, Al had become an expert at surviving. She had developed her own skill set and learned from years of experience. There wasn’t a whole lot she couldn’t do.