Sean Ennis


They came and got us at school. They were men, but some wore skirts. Their faces were mean and red as apples. We had already pledged our allegiance. We had prayed our prayers. The intercom screeched, “Basketball practice!  Basketball practice!”

Then, Math in the morning. Common denominators, thirteen times thirteen, motes of textbook dust catching the morning sun. Our bones ached from growing, and the room smelled like old racehorses, like glue. Sister Thomas hated the blackboard with her chalk, white splinters like spit in our faces. Her fat face pinched by her habit, chubby cheeks even under the vow of poverty. Catholic school. We, in short sleeves, clip-on ties of ugly plaid. Girls in jumpers, same plaid. The wooden crucifix rattling on the wall above the chalkboard.

Then, there was a bang, some smoke under the door, a scream, and Sister Thomas went out into the hallway. When the door shut behind her, we cheered and launched spitballs in slobbery arcs across the classroom. Someone called for a thumbtack for Sister Thomas’ chair, and we scoured our pencil cases.

Then, the banging on lockers like metal drums. The hooting. Sister Thomas’ voice louder and louder, a crack, then silence. We folded our hands on our desks out of routine, and stared at the door. 

The intercom buzzed on and someone banged on the xylophone the principal used to announce her announcements. Then crackly laughter. More bad notes. We waited for Sister Mary Michael to say something. She didn’t.

Three men came in. Visitors, we thought.

The men had ropes and tomahawks and cell phones. They had coffee in travel mugs and handguns and a smoking pipe they passed around that smelled of mud and cloves. One wore a Phillies’ t-shirt and had plastic bags rubber-banded to his feet. One had a small safety cone on his head and a bare chest full of tattoos of leaves and skulls and pills and stars. The last wore a fur coat covered in red spray paint. They looked at us, and one raised his gun. They tied five of us together: me, Clip, Milk, Eric and Julie F. A tight knot. Clip winked at me. There was blood pooled on the linoleum when we walked out to the hallway.

The fire alarm went off. Sister Joseph limped past us down the hallway, struggling with curse words she hadn’t used in a long time, and then burst out of the front door. Mrs. Jonah had an arrow in her back, and crawled past us, gasping. She was reaching behind her, trying to pull it out, when one of the men stepped hard on her elbow. The sound was like cracking a nut.  We tried to wave; we were in her class last year. Then her eyes rolled back into her head.

The old janitor, Henry, came out of the boys’ bathroom and swung his huge wrench at the men, then grabbed his chest and croaked like a frog on the floor. He said, “I can’t feel my left, I can’t feel my left!” The men just stepped over him. His hair was oily with Dax, and the blood vessels in his eyes had burst. Last year, I had thrown up at school, peanut allergies, and he was the one who poured sawdust on the mess. He told me, We’ll hide it before the girls see, and then swept it up. He smiled the bag all the way to the dumpster.    

The lesbian gym teacher, Ms. Kerr, got scalped in the hallway, though she’d thrown many dodge-balls at the men. They ran their fingers through her permed hair, torn from her head.  It was long and out of fashion. The dodge-balls bounced and rolled down the corridor, maroon as blood, fun as trouble, out the open door. I saw her skull, too, white like a swan’s feathers, then muddy brown as a pigeon. She died, too.

 Someone freed the pet guinea pigs and hermit crabs, and they scurried through the gore. They left strange, tiny footprints. Then, the men scooped up the animals and put them in sacks. They pulled the knot on the five of us tighter.

“Indians,” my friend Clip said.

We had heard something like this might happen. That they were coming back, that the park was filling up with armies. That they had just realized, again, that they had been ripped off so many years ago. But we were warned about them in the same way we were warned about sex and drugs and Ouija boards. This was heathens. This was holy war. We loved it. I was wearing the sterling silver cross I got for my Confirmation under my uniform.  Should I display it or rip it off?

They—the Indians—yelled at us in the hallway. Julie F was crying now. Her best friend, Julie G, was home, probably watching the Price is Right, under a blanket, faking sick.  We didn’t know what the Indians were saying, but it sounded like: “Booga, booga, booga.”

We waited in the hallway while other Indians ran past with blood-soaked hatchets.  Some wrote on clipboards. A group of them flipped through our history textbook and laughed. One tore everything we left in the coatroom into shreds, and put the scraps in a satchel. All of them carried Zippos, and flipped them open and closed, ticking clocks.

“What’s your name?” Clip yelled at the man holding our rope. The Indian furrowed his brow and pulled the knot tighter. The phone in his pocket was ringing at the same time.

“No class,” the Indian said, and flipped his phone open. 

Clip looked at me. “Told you,” he said. “Hey, No Class, where we going?”  

The Indian held up his finger like, Wait a minute, and listened to his phone. When he clapped it shut, we all jumped.

“We’re walking,” he said, and pulled the five of us towards the front door.

I saw them shoot Seamus O’Hanolin, the clown of the class who I secretly envied.  They shot Mark Higgins, the fat kid. They shot Erin McGarver--by accident, I think, because one of the men slapped the shooter in the back of the head afterwards. Then the Indians took their scalps and library cards. Everything with a bar code amazed them.       

We waited around in the recess lot for fifteen minutes, just watching. Traffic on Rhawn Street zoomed past, but none of the drivers saw a problem. No Class lit a cigarette and pounded text messages into his phone. Teachers, covered in blood, came out of the school, then went back in. They looked confused. Nuns with rosaries in their mouths ran past us towards the church. Some pigeons showed up and pecked at the puddles of blood.  

The front door of the school was broken open, and we heard more screams and more gunshots from inside.      

More groups of lassoed kids came out, too. I saw Warren and Roger. I saw Raisin, Janet, and Amy. Some kids were crying. Some kids were laughing. Then we saw the fire.  

All those books, all that paper. The wooden desks. The colored plastic. The smoke turned blacker and smelled like burnt food.

No Class dragged us farther from the school where the other kids and the other Indians stood around. Smoke pushed the stragglers out the school’s front door, coughing, covered in soot. An old priest in the rectory behind us shouted prayers and insults from a third-story window, but wouldn’t come down. His gigantic Great Dane, Lady, was running among us, a game to her, too. Wagging in the smoke and guts.

We heard sirens. The Indians checked their glow-in-the-dark watches, tapped their feet. They wore expensive running shoes, the kind with no laces. Then four white vans pulled up. We piled in. 

And the school burned. And the school burned.    


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