BOZ: Chapters 24-25

BOZ CHAPTER 24: The Sting

Scott Seager was in a good mood that morning! And why not? He had just scored the sweetest victory of his life – destroying his biggest rival. Boz had tortured him for years and Scott had felt helpless at his hand, especially before he’d known who the tormentor was, but that morning it was all over.

“Did you see that wussy look on his face?” Scott gushed for the third time that morning. “He couldn’t say a thing! For once the loudmouthed Boz Burton couldn’t say a thing!”

Scott’s cronies laughed out loud for the third time that morning, sounding almost sincere. Scott didn’t notice that their appreciation was forced and it didn’t matter if he had. None of them could possibly have appreciated the beauty of that moment. None of them had been looking over his shoulder for the last two years waiting for the next humiliating moment.

There would be no more humiliation for Scott. No more stupid practical jokes. No more Underdogs. No more Boz Burton. Scott threw his head back and hooted. He just couldn’t help himself.

As he rounded the corner, surrounded by his friends, his eyes fell upon a figure standing against the wall. Even through his giddiness, he recognized that she was out of place. He stopped and let his entourage move past. He felt compelled to check this girl out.

He looked her up and down – as a spoiled young prince might have looked over a wench he’d encountered on the roadside. And why not, he was the prince, this school was his kingdom and he liked what he saw. It was only after he’d looked her over the second time that he recognized her.

“Well, Mary, Mary,” he smirked “are you lost?” He was leering at her for the second time that morning, but this time she did not look away. As a matter of fact, there was a longing in this girl’s eyes now. She wanted something.

Had he known what she wanted, he would have retreated behind the safety of his returning gang, but he didn’t have an inkling. She’d hidden it too well behind the sweet look of a siren.

“Scott, can I talk to you for a minute?” Mary cooed in her sexiest voice and feeling foolish for it. She hid that feeling well, however, and it worked. He, and three of his friends, headed towards her.

She smiled her sweetest smile and pled, “Alone?”

Her request stopped the four of them in their tracks and, for a moment, any of them could have been knocked over by the slightest breeze.

Then, with a jerk of his head, Scott sent his band retreating into their first period classroom behind a chorus of “ohhhhh.” They were even nice enough to close the door behind them. Scott moved closer, putting his arm up the wall behind her and leaning in.

Mary was repulsed, but didn’t let that show either. She only had a few minutes to make this work. “Scott, I need to tell you something.”

“Really?” Scott’s usually high-pitched, whinny voice deepened considerably and his narrow eyes widened. “For all I know, you’re just trying to get me out somewhere so your boyfriend can jump me.”

For all she knew, that was exactly what was going to happen and the irony made her want to laugh, but all she allowed was a playful smile. “I wouldn’t do that, Scott. But I do have a little confession to make.” She watched his eyes narrow a little and knew he was ready for her bombshell. “I like you, Scott, I really do.”

“Well!” His single syllable spoke volumes as he moved closer. “You like me huh?” He was now whispering in her ear, “What exactly does that mean?”

Jerk!

The thought came so strongly that Mary was afraid it would slip out. Since the first day of school, this boy and his clique had mocked and tormented the homely Mary. She’d heard their snide remarks, seen them snicker and wag their heads. But with the beautiful Mary it was, “Well!”

Mary’s smile broadened as she realized what had happened. Scott had melted under the heat of her beauty and flattery. She looked at the boy she once feared and realized how weak he was and how easy this was. She playfully ducked out from under his arm.

“Yes, I like you, but this isn’t the place to discuss it. We need to find a quiet place where we can…” she let the idea float for a moment, “…talk. You know, really alone. I think,” she took him by the hand to lead him down the hall, “I know just the place!”

Mary led her little lamb around the corner and down a side hall, then up B-hall toward his slaughter. They passed Craze and the Martins at strategic lookout points along the way. They passed classrooms filled with students waiting to start a new term – all oblivious to Mary’s pounding heart and swirling head.

Conversely, Mary had no idea what the boy behind her was thinking and feeling. His head and heart were in havoc too. He was excited by the attention this gorgeous girl was showing him and by her sudden and brazen advances, but it all unsettled him. Scott may have been turned on, but he wasn’t stupid. Something was wrong!

As they headed down the little hall towards Warren’s room, Scott pulled his hand from Mary’s grasp. The hall was dark and deserted and the idea of someone waiting to jump him was no longer just a joke.

Mary turned to see an anxious squint. Knowing that she could not fail Boz, she pretended not to notice his suspicious expression.  She looked up and down the hallway as if she were wishing privacy. Two chattering girls, heading up the B-hall, served as pawns in her game.

“Come on Scott,” she almost begged, “we need to be alone.” She took a few steps backward, involuntarily batted her eyes, and stopped right in front of Warren’s door. Scott followed, but kept a safe distance. 

Playing her part perfectly, Mary reached for the doorknob and acted pleased to find that it turned. She opened the door and peered inside the dark classroom. “In here,” she whispered, reaching out and taking Scott by the hand again, but this time, it was like grabbing a dead fish.  

“What’s going on?” Mary jumped at Scott’s growl and she whirled to find his brow knit in a scowl. He was really suspicious now. He stepped menacingly toward her and pushed the door shut. “Why did you bring me here?”

Mary was losing him and she knew it. She had to think of something fast.

What does he love? More than himself that is?

“Oh Scott,” pausing and trying to bring up tears. “I just didn’t want you to be sad. I didn’t want anything to happen to your…” she paused acting like the next words were too painful. 

“My what!”

“Your car,” she gushed, knowing that those words would really hurt. Scott gasped and Mary knew she’d hit the right nerve. 

“My car? What about my car?” Scott growled and grabbed Mary’s arm. “What has that jerk…” he pushed her against the door and wheeled to head down the hall.

“No, Scott, no! Not the parking lot! In here!” She pulled the door open as she spoke.

Scott, irrational at this point, turned on his heels again and pushed past Mary into the room. She followed and pulled the door closed behind them.  

The room was dark except for the light filtering through the window in the door. It was just enough to make out the three figures at the front of the classroom. Scott, still in a rage, looked at them, then at Mary and then back at them again. “Well?” It was all he could muster.  

“Well what?” Boz shot back, sounding angry at the intrusion.

“My car! What about my car?”

“I’m sorry Boz,” Mary broke in, “I told him. I think it’s a rotten thing you are planning to do. I brought him to stop you.”

“You miserable little traitor,” Boz’s eyes blazed in the darkness. “It doesn’t matter anyway. His stupid little car is the least of his worries.” 

“That’s for sure,” Tom hissed in a strained voice.

“Don’t threaten me,” Scott spat, not sure if he should be angry or afraid. He didn’t like being in the dark with these guys and he was going to do something about it.

“Don’t!” Boz’s sharp demand did nothing to stop Scott’s move to the switch and before anything else could be said or done, the room was filled with light.  

“What happened?” Mary’s eyes widened as she gasped. This was no act. She was truly horrified by what she saw.

Floyd and Tom’s faces were badly bruised, cut and bleeding. That Boz had been standing in the dark, tending to their wounds was obvious from the pile of wet, bloody paper towels on Mr. Warrens’ desk. She started for the front of the room, but Boz put his hand up to stop her. 

“Don’t! We don’t need your help. Anyways, it’s Scott that you’ll be patching up.”

 “I told you not to threaten me!” Scott was now frightened and confused.

“You don’t get it do you?” Boz was laughing now. “You’re dead meat and you don’t even get it. Chuck won’t threaten you. He’ll just pound your face into hamburger.”

“You mean Worley?” Scott’s voice faltered as he moved toward the front of the room. “What does he have to do with this?”

Suddenly Boz had all the advantage. “I have an appointment with Mr. Reynolds, remember? Can’t be late for my expulsion.” Boz tried to push his way past, but Scott grabbed his sleeve. 

“Burton,” he almost cried with his eyes fixed on the bruised and bleeding duo, “what about Chuck?”

“Hey man, let the loser…” Floyd couldn’t finish for having to nurse his sore jaw.

Boz turned to face Scott and saw the fear in his eyes. This guy was terrified of Chuck. 

“Alright! Alright! You want to know?” Boz sounded an evil chuckle.

He jerked his sleeve free and plopped down in one of the desks. He leaned back and cradled his head in his hands.

 “I knew you’d copied my plans, but I couldn’t prove it. I stewed about it all weekend and finally decided that there wasn’t anything I could do – about that. But I wanted to get one last shot in, so I told Chuck and some of the others to meet me up here before school to plan. But before I could get up here, Tom came busting in and shot off his mouth. It seems he’d had a little conversation with a very upset former friend of yours – Julie.”

Scott grunted like he’d been punched in the stomach.

“She told him everything. She got into my locker, took my plans and then put them back after you’d copied them. You turned my work in as your own, not for the grade, but because you wanted to see me fry.

“Oh, and she told him how you’d threatened her and how she’s too afraid to go to Reynolds. But Tom didn’t get a chance to tell the rest, because when Chuck heard what you’d done, he went crazy and threatened to kill you.” 

“You’re lying, Burton! Just shut your hole.” Scott’s voice was trembling now. 

“Oh yeah, I’m lying. Look at those guys,” Boz motioned toward Tom and Floyd, “they tried to stop him and he about killed them. He busted out that door looking for you. They sent Clint to find him and talk some sense into him, but you and I both know I’m the only one who can stop him.”

“I’ll go to Mr. Reynolds! He’ll stop him!”  

“Are you sure you can make it between here and the office before Chuck finds you? And what are you going to tell Reynolds? What made the football captain mad enough to pulverize you? Go ahead Scott!” A couple of beats for dramatic effect. “No Scott, I’m the only one who can save you from Chuck, but like I said,” Boz stood up and stretched, “I’ll be late for my appointment.”

The con had worked. Everyone, even the novice Mary, had played their parts perfectly. The room fell deadly silent, except for Scott’s labored breathing. He was about to crack and Boz knew it.

But just then, in a piece of bad overacting, Tom let out a moan. It was so phony that even Boz could barely keep from laughing. It broke the spell and Scott flew into a rage. 

“I can’t believe I almost fell for this. I’m splitting!” Scott was on his feet and headed for the door.  

Boz’s mind raced, trying to think of a way to stop him, but he was stumped. Mary took Scott’s sleeve, but he jerked it away. Floyd gave Tom an evil look, but Tom just shrugged his shoulders. They had failed and they all knew it. 

Then suddenly, Scott came to a halt and swore. Four heads whirled toward the sound and saw Scott frozen in his tracks, gawking out the window of the classroom door.

BOZ CHAPTER 25: On the Banks of Sidon (Boz)

The look on Scott’s face was enough to give me goose bumps! Something outside that door had stopped him in his tracks and I had to know what it was. My first thoughts were that Reynolds was heading up the hall or that Warren had come early. But no teacher or administrator would have caused Scott to go that pale, that fast.

No! It had to be something more terrifying and I moved toward the window to see what it was. 

I had underestimated the dedication and courage of my newest recruit, but one glance through that glass convinced me to trust that kid forever. He was saving the day. 

I had charged Clint to bring Chuck to the hallway outside Warren’s room, just in case Scott needed a little convincing. Getting Chuck there had been no problem, but keeping him out of the classroom was another story. Apparently, Chuck was not happy being asked to wait and when he heard raised voices coming from Warren’s room, he bolted for the door. And that’s when Clint decided to get physical!

Just as Scott looked out that window, Clint had sprinted after the giant and launched his wiry body onto his round muscular back. Scott froze as he witnessed the fierce determination that was becoming Clint’s trademark. In seconds he saw Clint climb the hulk’s back, wrap his arms around his trunk-like neck and his legs around his massive chest.

Scott saw Chuck’s pace slow, but his hand still reached for the knob. It was then that he swore.

I got to the window and watched with Scott as Clint raised both arms high above his head and brought his bony elbows down with full force into Chuck’s muscular shoulders. Chuck yelped and winced from the pain, then brought his log-like arms up and tried to grab Clint’s head. Clint anticipated the move and jerked back just far enough to avoid the muscle-bound reach and then brought his elbows back down into the now-tender spots. Chuck yelped again and whirled as his arms flailed helplessly.

They made a bizarre sight that morning — the skinny runt clinging to the football captain like a bull rider and the football captain whirling in circles trying to swat him off.  It would have looked comical to anyone, anyone that is except the victim of the most desperate Underdog scam ever – who at that very moment gawked out the window of a classroom door. 

My sting had almost convinced Scott to confess, but it had been the sight of Chuck in a rage, being held back by the red-headed nerd that truly converted him. Scott retreated deep inside the classroom and begged me for help. 

“Please, don’t let him at me. You are the only one that can control him. I’ll confess to Reynolds. Just don’t let him at me!” Scott threw himself into a desk at the far corner of the room.

I made my own retreat from the window and jumped to finish off my victim.

“You’ll leave Julie out of it!”

“Yes, yes, whatever you say.”

“I mean it Scott, not one word about Julie – to Reynolds or anyone!”

Scott was now frighted and frustrated. He could still hear the struggle going on in the hall. “I told you – whatever you say!”

I had won! All I had to do was walk out that door and send Chuck off on some errand and it would all be over. The specter of Chuck would be enough to force Scott’s compliance. 

I looked at Scott cowering in that seat and allowed myself a silent gloat.

Where is the king of the preps now? Where is the mastermind that was going to ruin my life? Where is the bully that was so tough with Julie?

I started to tell Scott that he was nothing but a whimpering sack of crap, but almost choked on my tongue. I wanted the rush that came with pulling off the sting – but it wasn’t there. Here was my favorite dupe, putty in my hands and all I could do was gawk at him. My gawk morphed into a squint as I tried to figure out what I was feeling.  

My confederates were getting nervous. They weren’t sure what was happening in the hall, but from the noise they knew it was intensifying and there I stood – like a statue.

“Boz?” Even the novice Mary had grasped the need for better pacing.  

Hearing my name jarred me from my thoughts and I turned to find three very confused and very anxious players on my hands. Immediately the fog was gone.

“Mary,” I ordered with a wink, “go tell Chuck that I want him to go to class and that we’ll,” I paused for emphasis, “take care of Scott later.” I thought about the hallway rodeo and wished I could watch her discover it, but I had to stay and finish off the mark. Mary moved to obey and I turned my attention to Floyd and Tom.

“You two go…”

Mary opened the door to Clint’s squeals and Chuck’s grunts and it was all I could do to keep from laughing. I turned to hide my smile, acting like I was watching Mary. With the door closed and the sound muffled, I got my poker face back.

“…go get some help from the nurse.” I hoped the idea didn’t sound too far fetched. They played their parts all the way out the door and left the room to the sounds of Mary’s insistence. 

“No, Chuck. He’s fine. Just do as he…” The door closed behind them. 

It was, then, just Scott and me – competitors, even enemies, for years. I took a seat and we sat quietly for a long time.

At first, we just listened to the commotion in the hall. Chuck questioned and Mary answered. He objected but she overruled. Clint’s breathless whine started an explanation as Tom and Floyd helped him down the hall.

And then it was quiet. 

Scott sat trembling during the commotion with his eyes shut and listening to every sound. After it was over, it took him a long time to begin to relax.

I sat, the whole time, just watching and thinking. Scott was mine to do with as I wished. He was totally convinced that Chuck was out of control and that only I could stop him. He was willing to do whatever I wanted. A year earlier, this would have been a dream come true for me, but as I sat there, I felt something very different.  

I realized that the relish I was seeking, the prideful triumph over this enemy, was dark and ugly – like all of the feelings of the last weekend. I could hear my dad’s voice telling me I was about to throw away the best thing I’d ever had and knew it applied as much to that moment as it had to rejecting the missionaries.

I then remembered the sweet feeling of relief and gratitude that had come from God that weekend and remembered hearing the name Scott Seager in my mind as I prayed for my enemies that morning. I’d left my room sure that I would never be the man God wanted me to be, but now he was giving me the chance to be just that.

At that moment I was not Boz Burton setting in a room with Scott Seager. I was Captain Moroni standing on the bank of a river looking at Zarahemna. I held up a sword with a bloody scalp, determined to end the aggression against my people, but without a hint of malice in my soul. I wanted to give this man a way to comply with my demands while, at the same time allowing him to save face. I was going to be the man God wanted.

“Scott, Chuck isn’t going to hurt you.”

“I know, he’s gone. Thank you.” He was sincere.

“You don’t understand. He’s not going to hurt you now; he’s not going to hurt you ever.”

Scott’s head came up and slowly cocked to one side. I was right; he did not understand. He watched me stand up and move to the front of the room. He tensed as I reached under Warren’s desk. 

“I’m sorry Scott.”

 Scott looked really confused and a little worried. I had pulled out a mysterious case, leaving him to wonder what I had to apologize for? I’m sure he thought I was apologizing for something terrible I was about to do to him. I walked to him slowly and laid the case on the desk in front of him.

“I want to tell you what’s really going on here.”

Scott sat back in the seat, putting as much distance as he could between him and that suitcase.

“You were right Scott. The Underdogs have picked on you for a long time now. It all started with the newspaper gag. You got so mad and made it so much fun. You should have just laughed it off.”

He tensed at my chiding and it made me a little mad. It took me a moment to calm down.

“Last Spring, when I got caught coming out of the band room, you figured it all out didn’t you?”

His nodding made me smile again.

“Well, I figured it out too. Not right then, but later in the summer, at Coronado. I met this girl and she…she helped me understand what a mess I was making of my life. I came home determined to change. I wanted to make something of my life. I changed my schedule and took on a heck of a load. It was hard, but I really tried.

“Physics was the hardest, but I wanted to show Fisher I could do it. I wanted to show me I could do it. I worked my keester off on that project and then you…”

I started to get emotional and Scott watched me play with the suitcase handle.

“This was your way of getting back at me wasn’t it?” I didn’t wait for him to answer. “You did a good job. I should make you an honorary Underdog for that one. You nailed both my feet to the floor and hit me hard.”

I was making myself mad and my grip on the suitcase handle tightened. The words rumbled from deep in me.

 “My whole world fell apart. The Underdogs deserted me. My sister and I had a big blowout. I felt trapped and hopeless and started striking out at everything and everyone. I knew you had done it and was so mad at you. I wanted to hurt you.”

Scott was officially freaked out. His hands came up under the suitcase, which I had almost shoved into his lap. I think he was going to push it up into my face and bolt out the door. He was just ready to make his move when he looked up at me and saw tears streaming down my cheeks.

“Scott, I am so sorry.” I wiped the tears with the back of my hand. “I’ve been a jerk and I don’t want to scam you any more. Chuck is not going to hurt you. Nobody is.”

And with that, I ripped the suitcase open and dumped the contents of the theatrical makeup kit onto the desk. I’d expected a gasp of understanding, but all I got was a confused look. I was a little frustrated that I had to explain.

“It’s all a scam. Tom and Floyd’s injuries are phony.” I dropped the suitcase. “We cooked this whole thing up to get you to confess. Chuck doesn’t know a thing. Julie’s too scared of you to tell anybody anything. Clint overheard the two of you talking this morning. That’s how we knew.” 

I didn’t know what else to say and I don’t think Scott knew what to think. He had to be amazed at what the Underdogs had pulled off in just a few minutes. He had to be mad at himself for not seeing through the scam. He had to be relieved that Chuck was not really trying to kill him. But he just sounded confused.   

“Why didn’t you just have the little nerd tell Reynolds what he found out?”

“Believe me, I thought about it, but if it came out that way, Julie would have been in big trouble and I wanted to save her that.”

“She’s the one who got your plans for me. She sold you out. She’s nothing but a….”

“It doesn’t matter. I don’t want revenge. If I can’t forgive, I don’t deserve to be forgiven.” 

Scott got up, spilling the makeup kit onto the floor. He crossed the room to the door and stood looking out the window into the hall. “You’re going to forgive her after what’s she’s done to you? Your serious about this aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I’m serious. And, by the way, I forgive you too.”

Scott stood glaring at me for about ten seconds before he exploded. “Forgive me?! What the hell, Burton. Man, you don’t know how long I have hated your guts. That’s all I’ve thought about for months, is how to get back at you.” Scott shook his head as if he were trying to scramble disoriented thoughts back into place.

All I could think to do was nod.

“What if I walk out that door?”

“Then you walk out the door!”   

“You’re not going to sic Worley on me?”

“No.”

“Then,” Scott paused as if he were trying to decide what to do, “maybe you’re not such a jerk after all.” We both snorted at that one.

Scott took a long, searching look at me and then nodded. We understood each other and, I think, both felt we’d done something epic. But neither of us really realized we’d been witness to a miracle.

I’d vacillated several times during the time we’d been alone – the natural man in me wanting the revenge. I’d even thought about thrashing Scott myself, before dragging him down to Reynolds, but something else spoke to me that day.

I’d been praying for miracles. I wanted permission to join the Church. I wanted to make up for all the time I’d wasted in school. I wanted the Lord to make me into a Captain Moroni. I guess I learned God doesn’t work like a fairy Godmother.

God gives men tests and trials that bring them to moments of decision and then, in those moments, sends the quiet, gentle promptings of the Holy Ghost. Those who will listen and yield to those promptings receive the blessings that God intends for them.

I’d faced test after test and this trouble with Scott and been a final exam of sorts. I’d listened and yielded to the Spirit that day. I’d felt the firm confidence and peace that only the Spirit can bring. It had happened when I fought the temptation to ram Betha’s bumper into Scott’s little sports car; when I walked away from the confrontation in the hallway; and when I’d chosen not to hurt Julie. But the most pivotal decision came when I had Scott – the guy who had branded me as a cheat, turned my friends against me and tried to get me kicked out of school – sitting before me like putty in me hands. 

I’d been Captain Moroni, offering an olive branch of peace; offering both of us a way out. And the thing that made this miracle most amazing is that the same Spirit that whispered to me, I think, worked on Scott.

“But how are we going to get your butt out of this sling without putting mine in there?” Scott asked the question for both of us.  

“We tell Reynolds the truth?”  

“He’ll expel us both!”  

“I don’t think so! I’ll tell him that the Underdogs have been harassing you and that you didn’t steal my project for a grade, just to get back at me. And we don’t tell him about Julie.”

I paused to let that sink in.

“I’m sure Fisher will let you redo the project when he understands. I’ll help you.”

 “I think you’re smoking weed, talking about Fisher like that. He is a hard ass.”

But after a moment of thinking, he nodded. I mean what else could he do? I could still let Clint tell his story and he knew it. Besides, the guy who could have creamed him had just cut him a huge break. After another moment, he nodded again and headed for the door.

I followed.   

He swung the door open and stepped out into the hall, but as I stepped into the doorway, he blocked my exit. “And by the way, if Fisher cuts me slack on the project, I won’t need your help. I finished my project before I copied yours and it’s so much better than yours it’s not funny.” 

“We’ll see about that!”

And without another word we walked down the hallway together.

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