Aphelion Issue 293, Volume 28
September 2023
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by Matthew Harrison

Johnny rounded the final hedge--and saw a body lying in front of the school side-gate, but he didn’t stop to gawp because Mr. Mann the janitor was standing over it. Mr. Mann was carrying a shotgun, and the edgy way he was looking this way and that showed he meant to use it. Johnny had only a .22 in his school bag, worse luck! So he ducked smartly back behind the hedge.

Wonder who it was? he thought, as he crouched down. Hope it was Lineker. Lineker was the big bully in the year above who had turned his attentions to him this term. It wasn’t true that carrying guns stopped bullying, certainly not if the gun was a little .22. Lineker had just laughed when he brought it out, drawing his Glock 19 and pressing it to Johnny’s forehead. Johnny had been pestering his Dad to get him a Glock, like his brother Brett, but no luck so far.

Johnny peeked round the hedge. No, it didn’t look like Lineker--the corpse was too small, but anyway, it should be good for a morning off school, maybe a whole day.

A police siren sounded, and drew rapidly nearer. Time to go! Johnny sprang up, and ran along behind the hedge. A warning shot from Mr. Mann blasted a hole in the hedge behind him, but Johnny was kept going. He reached the safety of the main school gate, and flattened himself behind a brickwork pillar, panting.

As his breathing eased, Johnny looked around. Boys were milling about, some brandishing their air pistols ineffectually. A couple of teachers in full battle gear were trying to shepherd the boys indoors with their tommy guns. That was bad--it looked like school was on after all. Maybe there would be more excitement with the police. Cautiously, Johnny slunk back along the inner side of the hedge.

Leaving his school bag beneath a rhododendron bush, Johnny got down on his stomach and wormed his way along behind a low wall. The police siren was deafening. When he judged he’d got far enough, he carefully raised his head.

Yikes! He was looking up at Mr. Mann’s trouser legs! Carefully, Johnny lowered his head again. It was fortunate that he did so, for the police siren stopped, a male voice barked out orders, and then came the staccato rattle of a machine gun. With a yelp, the janitor himself came crashing through the hedge and landed on his back behind the wall, his shotgun tumbling away. Bullets rattled into the brickwork and cut through the leaves. Then the machine gun turned to spray the other side.

The firing stopped. “Hello, Mr. Mann,” Johnny said. “No, it’s me!” he added hastily, as the janitor lunged for the shotgun. Just in time, Mr. Mann recognized him, and gave a surly grunt.

“Hands up!” came a bellow behind them. An armor-clad policeman had rounded the hedge and spotted them. Slowly and carefully, Johnny and Mr. Mann rose with their hands in the air. They need hardly have bothered, for two more policemen rushed up and maneuvered them to the ground, clapping on handcuffs. They were then hauled up, pushed through the gap in the hedge, and bundled into the armored police car.

It sure beats school! Johnny thought excitedly, as the car whisked them through rubble-strewn streets to the police station.

* * *

“Did they waterboard you?” Brett asked.

Johnny shook his head. It was evening, and he was glad to be back at home.

“Fingernails?” Brett persisted.

“Now then!” said their mother, “Johnny’s had a trying day, and you’ve got homework to do, haven’t you dear? Let me set the dinner.” And she bustled off into the kitchen.

“You all right, son?” his father asked. Johnny nodded, pleased at all the attention.

His father grimaced, and began to take off his flak jacket. His fingers fumbled with the buttons. “You know, son, if you hadn’t come back, I was going to go down to the police station myself to ask them a few questions.” He gestured to the grenade launcher propped against the wall. “Couple of the guys down the road were with me. Like Albert.” He appealed to his wife, who was entering with a big pot in mittened hands. “Remember what they did to his son?”

“Reggie, don’t dwell on that,” said his wife. “All’s well that ends well, that’s what I say.” And she set the pot down on the table.

Brett wanted to know who had been killed. Was it Lineker?

“No,” Johnny said, “just one of the new boys, I can’t remember the name, but you know what, Lineker was the one that did it! They brought him in too, and I heard him scream!” He chuckled at the memory.

“Well, I’m glad for you, dear,” said their mother. “That’ll teach him a lesson.” She turned to her husband. “I suppose they will lock him up?”

“He’s a minor,” said Reggie gloomily. “Maybe six months. Although he’s a repeat offender--right, Johnny?”

Johnny confirmed that. Lineker had shot the McPherson twins, and maybe someone else, he couldn’t remember.

“I’m getting you a proper gun,” Reggie said firmly. “Like Brett.”

Ya-hoo! Johnny was ecstatic.

“Reggie, dear,” said their mother. “Is that wise? You know what Brett did with his first gun. That girl…”

“Oh, Mum!” Brett groaned. “That was ages ago!”

“Boys will be boys,” their father said magnanimously, and putting his hands on the shoulders of his two sons, he ushered them to the dinner table.

Johnny was so excited that at first he could hardly eat, but his mother had cooked his favorite stew, and he was soon tucking in.

What a fantastic day it had been!


2016 Matthew Harrison

Bio: Mr. Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and is reliving a boyhood passion for science fiction.  He has published numerous short stories and is building up to longer pieces as he learns more about the universe.  He is married with two children but has no space for pets.

E-mail: Matthew Harrison

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