First Place

His aim that night had been calculated and precise. Jez was a good student that way, always did his homework, learnt through the tedium of rote no problem. No wonder the awards the faculties gave him end of year, that smug look on his face walking on stage, basking in the applause of all those parents and older siblings. What an ace young fella, their smiles seemed to say. What a winner.

What a bummer for him when I got transferred here. Winners like Jez don’t like coming second, especially to someone who doesn’t care if they’re first or not. The ones whose so-called victories are incidental. Guys like me, with parents from the dope-smoking love generation who didn’t believe in being competitive. Never be unfriendly, they would say. Just try your hardest, and let your talent, if you have any, speak for itself. Just so happened I was pretty darned talented. Not with everything – sucked at English and History – and it took a bunch of hard work, but when it came to math and science and sports, making friends, throwing smash-up parties when our folks were away, I fucking nailed it.

He was all smiles and a firm handshake at first. It wasn’t till after the basketball game that his look started to sour, after I managed a triple-double. First term’s grade results were the real kicker though. I won’t bore you too much on this, but needless to say our resident captain Jez was less than thrilled. Caught him staring from across the canteen one day, and it was no ordinary resentment on his face. The kind of glare that made none of what happened the next weekend much of a surprise.

The turn-out to my funeral was flattering, to say the least. He was there, of course. Couldn’t hide his anger at the affection that my memory was given, the hysterical sobbing, the many speeches from other students even though I’d only been attending a few months. Almost shaking with rage, he was. Obvious he was thinking of murdering me all over again.

I never disliked the guy till I saw the satisfaction in his eyes, driving the blade in. Sorry Mum, sorry Dad. Your boy isn’t entirely saintly. From that moment on, for the first time in my life – can I still call it that? – I wished another human being harm. Less eloquent in my head though.

Fuck this cunt, I thought.

And what better way to do so than by actually fucking him. Seeing the shock in his eyes on waking to the feel of a cold ghost-cock right up there. Cry to mommy about that one Jez. See what they say down the ward after pleading you were butt-fucked by your own murder victim.

Only joking. Besides, the twisted fuck would probably enjoy it. Better to show up unannounced, like I did the following week at the back of applied math with Mr. Turner, casual like, behind my old desk, as though nothing had happened. Turns out ghosts can control who sees them or not. Whether I looked solid or translucent, fresh or decomposing. It’s pretty gnarly.

For Jez I made myself as regular as could be, same black jeans and hoodie as I wore in the woods that night. The pen and calculator I handled were only visible to him. Nothing too supernatural about that aspect, really – more like making my imagination manifest as an hallucination. Super fucking cool, all the same.

The look on his face when he saw me was almost worth the dying part. I pretended not to notice. Instead I moved my point of view from the apparition he saw to a few feet away, so I could study him properly. Oh Jez. Look who’s first place now. Hard not to feel compassion when you see someone’s entire universe ripped apart, in applied mathematics no less.

His heartrate jumped to 180 almost instantaneously. Eyes unblinking, body frozen. Over a minute before he started breathing again.

Seeing where he was staring, Mr. Turner was softer toned than usual.

“Jeremy, you’re good with logarithms, how would you solve this problem?”

To no avail, though. Jez was gone. Some mix of shock, fear and complete dissociation. So, naturally, I raised my head and gave him a big wink. His desk then toppling over as he screamed and jumped backwards and fell into Brenda James, then into Sam Peterson as he bolted out the door.

Down the hallway and around the corner at breakneck speed he went, steps on the hard polish echoing loud in the empty space, past the first of the lockers, inertia sending his sneakers into a screech when he saw me again, casually bent, putting a textbook away. He scrambled after falling over backwards and stood with a spin to run the other way, straight through me this time, the knife suddenly in his hand, shirt wet from the same blood as that night. The calls of Mr. Turner behind him distant and unheard as he smashed through the maintenance entrance to the day outside.

Some kind of vengeance that was. Hard to say whether it was satisfying. I guess it was, in a way, at least for sparing the next besting he received. He couldn’t well murder his way to the top of med school the following year, and by the looks of things he’d try. So really it was a service. My gift to the greater good. And the food down the asylum isn’t all bad. The corned beef Tuesday nights tastes delicious. You just need your appetite back, Jez. Look at me, see how easy it is? Fork holds the meat, knife cuts the portion. Then fork to the mouth, like this, we chew several seconds, and then, when it’s all gone to mush, we swallow. At least give it a try. It really is good. So good, in fact, that I better go back for seconds. There isn’t much left, after all.



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