Mrs Reichs had never been quite pleased with the seating arrangement of 6/L. If she had her own way, she would have preferred it boy, girl, boy, girl. Unfortunately, there were rather insolent and mischievous members of the class; Henry Bowers, Patrick Hockstetter, Richie Tozier and Reginald ‘Belch’ Huggins to name just a few. These boys were not to be trusted, and Mrs Reichs found herself re-seating them far, far away from the girls within the second week of September!
A boy by the name of Patrick Hockstetter was particularly capricious. In fact, Mrs Reichs had considered calling his parents on many occasions to allow him for a psychiatric evaluation. An apathetic student, and a deviant, Patrick has been moved to many different places, and seemingly none of them have been to his benefit, or to anybody else’s. In alphabetical order, Patrick had been placed right next to Belch Huggins. At first, Reichs thought this arrangement would turn out rather spectacular; however on the fourth day, Huggins had gone to her at lunch complaining of being harassed by the boy. When asked what had happened, Reginald had turned red in the face and refused to talk about it.
Seating arrangement number 2 had almost been a success – if only it weren’t for Henry Bowers being such a violent boy. As Henry was two years older than Patrick (he’d been held back a few years because of his lack of interest in school), Mrs Reichs had been wary of seating Patrick next to him. Henry and Patrick had seemed to get along just fine, and Reichs was pleased with the combination. Henry had allowed Patrick to help him with his work, and she had seen an improvement in Henry’s rather lack-luster grades. However, just a few days later, Mrs Reichs had caught Henry holding Patrick in a headlock. She wasn’t quite sure what had happened to get the two into a fight, but she guessed it had something to do with ‘inappropriate touching’.
The following day, Mrs Reichs had situated Patrick next to a girl. Her name was Veronica Grogan, and she was shy, quiet and a rather intelligent pupil. As Patrick was also shy, the 6th grade teacher had desperately paired the two together for many science assignments and school trips.
There had been a small scream, interrupting Reichs from her Geography lesson. Anxiously scanning the classroom for the source of the scream, she didn’t need to be psychic to know it had come from the second row where Patrick was next to Veronica Grogan.
‘Don’t ever pull my hair again, you creep!’ Grogan had squealed, clasping her long brunette braid in her shaking hands. The poor girl looked furiously close to tears, and Mrs Reichs felt a kind of distant sympathy for her. Instead of comforting her, she felt oddly angry, not quite at Patrick (he had a slippery strange way of attracting Mrs Reichs’s empathy) but at Veronica for distracting her class.
‘Miss Grogan, please stop being such a silly girl and wait outside the room. I don’t have time for your behaviour!’
Veronica had never been told off before. Her parents had spoilt her rotten and wouldn’t dare ever shout at their precious darling. She hadn’t ever been yelled at in school either, being so quiet and well-behaved. Storming out the class room, attracting all of 6/L’s attention, Veronica slammed the door behind her, causing the glass window to rattle vulnerably in its frame.
Mrs Reichs sighed and continued her Geography lecture on China. Giving Hockstetter a stern, almost confused glance, Reichs simply chose to ignore his benign grin in return. Well, his parents will certainly be getting a call home! I’ve just about had enough of him!
Greta Bowie, one of Veronica’s friends, had shot Patrick a look that could have killed. Turning to her friend, she whispered something malicious into her ear, causing the girl to giggle behind her hand in a geisha-like manner. Eddie Corcoran, hissed in Patrick’s direction, ‘You’re dead, Hockstetter.’
Instead of being terrified, Patrick simply threw back his blond head and cackled wildly.
Break time arrived at last and Eddie found Patrick sat alone on a bench just outside the school hall. Good.
Tracking down Patrick had been easy; the boy always sat alone, withdrawn and macabre in his own little world. A small tin pencil case was clenched in Patrick’s clammy, pallid hands. Eddie knew what was in there all right. Goodness, everyone knew what was in there!
Eddie could remember one day back in December where Patrick had come to him, smiling dizzily, carrying that same pencil case. Placing the pencil case onto Eddie’s desk, he had slowly opened the lid and shown the horrified boy its grisly contents; chopped up flies were piled up inside the lower compartment, squashed up against the roof and reeking of death.
Shaking his head of the memory, Eddie placed a hand against Patrick’s cheek, causing him to break from his daze.
‘Hockstetter,’ Eddie began, smiling calmly. Patrick could sense danger in his voice, ‘Hasn’t anybody taught you to behave yourself in front of a lady?’
Patrick Hockstetter smirked in his typical porky-vacant manner. As he said nothing in return, Eddie wrongly mistook his silence as shyness. Fury overtook him. Maybe it was natural impulse, maybe it was his step-father’s influence. 50/50. Grabbing Patrick’s collar and leaning in closer, he hissed, ‘Don’t ever touch her, got it?’
Smiling benevolently and nodding, Patrick looked as if he wanted to get away. Eddie wouldn’t allow any such thing and pushed Patrick away so that he smashed his head against the back of the wooden bench. As Patrick continued nodding and smiling, Eddie gave up on him and turned to leave.
‘It’s only because you have a crush on her…’ Patrick whispered huskily to Eddie’s retreating back, ‘She’s not even pretty anyway.’
Eddie whipped around, his dark, dopey eyes dancing with anger, ‘So what? Tell anyone and I’ll make you wish you were dead, Patrick.’ However, much to Patrick’s amusement, there was a dull flush on Eddie’s face.
Disgruntled, Eddie stalked off to find Henry and his pals. Patrick simply remained on the bench, swinging his legs cheerfully.