Get Lost, Unibrow!

When it came to how we treated Jackson, I thought I was the good guy.
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I turned quickly, dodging Trent*, then shot.

Swoosh! "Two points for me!" I shouted.

I shot hoops after school every day with Trent and Dylan. It was just the three of us, unwinding after a long, boring day of classes. The gym was usually empty, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Then Jackson started showing up.

He had bushy eyebrows that connected in the middle, a dopey walk and a hugely annoying habit of never leaving us alone. Jackson had recently transferred to our school and, for some reason, he decided we needed to be his friends. He'd show up at lunch, butting into our conversations. He'd show up at the gym, begging to let him play ball with us. We tried ignoring him. We tried putting him down. Nothing seemed to work.

After Jackson intruded on us in the gym one too many times, my friends totally lost it.

"Not again!" Trent moaned, rolling his eyes.

"Get lost, Unibrow!" Dylan yelled, snatching the ball from Jackson's hands. "You can't shoot. You can't dribble. You can't pass. And you run like a chicken."

"Are you kidding?" Trent said. "I'd rather have a chicken on my team than this loser."

We all broke into laughter. As usual, despite the stream of insults, Jackson wouldn't budge.

"I'd split if I were you," I told Jackson. But his feet remained firmly planted at center court.

"Let's just pretend he's not here," I told Trent and Dylan.

"How can we?" Trent asked. "He's in the way!"

Trent put his hand on Jackson's shoulder and shoved him hard.

"Mooove!" he shouted.

"No!" Jackson said defiantly.

"Beat it!" Trent insisted as he grabbed Jackson by the shirt collar and flung him to the floor. Jackson sprang to his feet and started swinging his fists in self-defense, grazing Dylan's chin with his knuckle.

"You little punk!" Dylan yelled as he hurled a left hook, hitting Jackson in the face.

With no other kids or teachers around, I ran over to try and break up the fight. But I wasn't quick enough to stop Dylan from punching Jackson a second time—this time hard in the gut. Jackson doubled over and fell to his knees.

"C'mon—get up," Trent said, taunting Jackson.

"Dude, that's enough," I said, pulling Dylan back.

Jackson slowly stood up and headed for the gym door as Dylan and Trent cheered.

Although Jackson irritated me, I felt like my friends had gone too far this time. I decided the only decent thing to do was find Jackson and see if he was OK. But I didn't think it would be cool to let Dylan and Trent know what I was up to, so I made up an excuse: "I have to go take care of something. I'll catch up with you later." Then I went searching for Jackson and found him all alone in the locker room. He was repeatedly slamming his locker door.

I slowly approached him.

"Are you OK, man?" I asked.

Jackson wouldn't respond or even look at me. I didn't know what to say so I blurted out the first thing that entered my head.

"What were you thinking? I told you to leave! Why did you have to stay and tick them off?"

"Are you kidding me?!" Jackson said through clenched teeth. "You're really gonna try and pin this on me? All I wanted was to hang with you guys."

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