Cowboy Logic - B.A. Tortuga
Honestly, the fists didn’t hurt the worst.
It was the boots.
Anderson protected his head with one arm, grabbing at someone’s—Quint Bellamy, maybe, the bastard liked shitkickers—legs and going in for a bite, even as he thrust out as hard as he could with his legs, praying he made contact with one of the other assholes.
He wasn’t sure what he’d done today. Maybe he’d been caught reading. Maybe he’d looked at the wrong guy the wrong way. Maybe he’d just shown up here in the gym after any teachers who would stop this shit had left.
Regardless, there were five rednecks kicking his ass, and not very many people seemed to give a shit.
In fact, he heard no protest save his own. Fuckers. All of them. People tended to disappear like smoke instead of chanting about fights when someone was beating him up.
He got in a handful of blows, three good bites, and a kick that had to have hit someone’s balls, because damn, the screaming. Then he heard Miss Garces, her voice snapping through the air.
“All of you leave him alone right now! I will kick all y’all’s asses. You little punks want to graduate? I can assure you that won’t happen!”
Thank God. The cavalry had arrived.
He landed hard when the kid holding his shirt let go, but the assholes all scattered like roaches, running from the authority of a teacher. Anderson groaned, trying not to curl back up in a ball, even though he hurt all over.
Acting like a pussy didn’t do him any good. Not at all. He swallowed some blood and counted his teeth with his tongue. Nothing seemed shattered or missing.
“Come on, Anderson. Let’s get you an ice pack. It’ll help the bleeding.” Miss Garces wasn’t but a few years older than him and sweet as pie. She tried to be all efficient and stoic, but she had to be upset.
“Thanks.” He sounded like he was gargling saltwater, which he would have to do later. “Sorry.”
“No, sir. You don’t apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Her voice was fierce, but her hands were gentle as she helped him to his feet. “Come with me. We’ll fix it. Can you walk?”
“I have no idea.” Anderson swayed, bile rising up in his throat. He was gonna puke up a scene from The Shining.
“Jesus. Honey, I think we should call the police and your parents. Maybe an ambulance.”
“You can’t. The guys will never let up if you call my parents.”
“Then we expel the little shits. This isn’t normal. This is nasty.” She looked up, glancing around a little wildly. “Jericho? Jericho, I see you over there. Come help me get Anderson in the office. Did you see this?”
“Liar.” He lifted his head, trying to focus. “You run with them. You knew.”
“No, I don’t. They ain’t friends of mine.” Jericho Yeager was… well, he was already the kind of cowboy the girls read about in romances—lean. Stoic. Off to work on the family ranch as soon as school was out. He never once stood up for Anderson, though. Not once.
“Just help me get him up so I can get him to the office!”
At Miss Garces’s voice, Jericho jumped and trotted over, boots clicking on the gym floor.
“Yes, ma’am.” Jericho slung an arm around him, supporting most of his weight.
Miss Garces muttered all the way to the office, where Mrs. Maydel stared at him as if he’d grown two heads. “Call 911. I need an ambulance and the police. Also, get Anderson’s mother on the phone.”
Oh, Momma was gonna cry and fuss so hard. Daddy would ask whether he needed to kill someone, even if he didn’t mean it. Maybe he would let his dad kill Frank Nedry. The asshole was the one who’d started it all. Then again, Quint did have those pointy toes, and they’d done the most damage.
He grabbed his phone from his backpack, flipped it open, and called his sister, Bailey. She answered, and before she could get out more than hello, he said, “Got my ass handed to me, Sister. Cops are coming. Ambulance. Help?”
“Oh my God. I’m coming. You’re still at school?”
“Uh-huh.” He started shaking, and he was terrified he was fixin’ to break down and blubber. “They called the ambulance, Sister.”
“We can’t afford that, Bubba. You tell them you won’t go with them. Then they can’t charge you. I’ll take you to the hospital myself.” She had to know all this from when Daddy’d broken both his ankles in a drought crack. God.
“Okay. Okay, hurry. Please.