Victor Lawson wore his new blue corduroys with pride. They were the first pair of pants he’d had in over a year that didn’t come used from a thrift store. He even liked the way the legs went “zip zip zip” as they rubbed against each other when he walked. He was sure his first-grade teacher, Mrs. Chambers, would like them too. She was the only good thing about first grade at Watson Elementary School. She knew everything, unlike the kids in his class. They didn’t have much interesting to say, and they all seemed particularly bad at math, even addition and subtraction. No one seemed to know what multiplication and division were, and a few kids were even still learning how to count past twenty. That amused him to no end, but he had to be careful about expressing his delight. One time Brett Meyers had counted, “twenty-nine, twenty-ten, twenty-eleven,” before Mrs. Chambers could stop him, and Victor had laughed out loud. That got him a punch in the gut during recess. Brett got away with hitting a lot of kids because he was the biggest in the class.
Today, Victor learned that new corduroys could also get him beat up. It wasn’t so much the pants themselves–other kids had similar trousers–but rather the way he wore them. To Brett and his buddies any boy that was too proud of anything had to be put in his place. Victor made it through lunch before the pack descended on him behind the gym annex during outside play. He found himself staring into a circle of angry blue and green eyes filled with a mixture of menace and glee.
“I like your pansy pants,” Brett spat out.
Victor didn’t know that word. “No. They’re corduroy,” he said.
“They’re pansy. You don’t want to be a pansy do you?”
Victor shook his head.
“Then give them to me.”
“You heard me. Take them off.”
Victor looked for a way to run, but the five boys closed around him. “No, I won’t,” he protested with as much authority as he could muster, but the words only seemed to squeak out.
“No, I won’t,” someone behind him mocked.
Before Victor could turn around to see who it was, he felt a hard shove just above his waist that knocked him face-first onto the ground. Then two or three kids landed on top of him. He felt his shoes come off. Fists and feet pummeled his sides and back.
“Turn him over!” Bret ordered.
Two hands shoved his shoulder, forcing him to roll on his back. Victor squinted through pools of tears at Brett staring down at him. “Look. He’s got brown, Jew eyes.”
Now someone pulled off his socks, exposing his bare feet. Victor clenched his toes, but the flaps of webbing were still visible. He felt fingers wrenching his toes apart.
“Crap, look at that! Look at his toes! He looks like a frog!”
The group fell silent for a moment. He felt hands releasing.
“It’s the mark of the Devil,” someone said. “Don’t touch them.”
Everyone let go. Victor saw them back off. He lifted himself to his knees. The boys eyed him suspiciously. He lunged forward in mock attack, raising his hands up, palms down like claws. The group scattered, except for Brett, who circled him slowly. Victor pulled his knees to his chest to try to stand, but Brett came from behind and kicked him hard in the back, sending him flat on his face again. The pain and humiliation were too much, and he began to cry. He clenched his muscles for the imminent pounding, but it didn’t happen. He could hear kids laughing in the distance. He opened his eyes and turned his head both ways. He was alone.
Victor heard the end-of-lunch bell ring, and he knew he would be late if he didn’t hurry. But the thought of going back to class now was too scary. What if Brett and the others found him before he could find Mrs. Chambers?
He gathered his socks and put them on, but his shoes were nowhere around. One of the boys must have stolen them, he realized. His new stepfather, Walter, wasn’t going to be happy about that. After the pounding he’d just had, he didn’t want to get hit again at home. Maybe he could hide somewhere, he thought. But then he realized how futile that would be. The teachers and principal would come looking for him, and they must know all the hiding places better than he did. Besides, he’d have to go home sometime. His stepfather usually didn’t get really mean until late in the afternoon after he drank the honey-colored juice from the heavy glass bottle–the stuff that smelled like medicine. If Victor could get home before that happened, maybe he could explain things and beg for mercy.
Mrs. Chambers would be looking for him soon, he knew, so he ran as fast as he could wearing only his socks. If he headed straight out from the gym, no one could see him from the school building until he was almost at the bushes in the yard of the house next door. He headed to them and dove to the ground on the far side. He glanced back through the loose branches to the school, but no one was coming after him. He could see the other kids lined up and filing through the back door and into the school building. In a minute, the playground was empty. Victor then started the quarter-mile walk to his house.
By the time he arrived, his socks were mostly worn through, and his feet bled from cuts and abrasions on his heels and insteps. He opened the front door slowly and stuck his head in. It was quiet. He stepped inside and shut the door behind him. Now he could hear a voice in the kitchen. It was his mother, and that made him feel better. Then he heard his stepfather as well. Walter wasn’t usually home at lunchtime. Frightened, Victor ran up the carpeted half-flight of stairs to the hallway to his room.
He shut his room door softly, sat on the floor and removed the shreds of sock that still clung to his feet. He used them to wipe his cuts; then he threw them under his bed where no one would ever look. He softly opened his dresser drawer and took out a fresh pair that he slipped on gingerly. The soft cotton made him feel a little better. He decided to wait there till he knew his mother was nearby. Then he would go to her and tell her what happened. He hoped she could protect him from Walter.
“Oh Christ! Look at this!” It was his stepfather’s voice, coming from the base of the stairs. “Mary! Did you get blood on the carpet?”
He heard a muffled, “What? No.”
“Come out here and look at this God-damn mess.” He could hear footsteps on the stairs. “They lead straight to Victor’s room. Why the hell didn’t you clean this up earlier?”
“Clean what up? Oh. That wasn’t here this morning.” His mother’s voice was clearer now. “Oh my God. Is Victor OK?” She must be on the stairs, he realized. But that meant his stepfather would get to him first. In a panic, he tried to crawl under the bed, but he only got his head and torso under it before he heard the door open. He steeled himself for the onslaught. Giant, vice-like hands grabbed his ankles and dragged him out from his intended refuge. “What the fuck did you do? Why aren’t you in school?”
“Don’t hurt him!” his mother pleaded. “For God’s sake, please don’t hurt him.”
Victor tried to curl up in a ball to protect his face and stomach, but Walter Lawson rolled him onto his back. Victor squinted through half-opened eyes and saw his stepfather crouched in front of him, rage in his eyes, and Victor smelled the medicine on his breath. His mother cowered in the doorway, her hand over her mouth and fear in her eyes. “Answer me, you little bastard. What have you been doing?”
Victor stayed mute. Walter’s hand rose in a rigid salute and then swung down at him. The blow wrenched his head sideways, and he closed his eyes, steeling himself for the next strike. Then he heard his mother scream, and he felt his stepfather tumble forward on top of him. He opened his eyes and saw his mother pulling his stepfather back by his collar. Victor squirmed out from under the melee and crawled completely under the bed this time.
“Let me talk to him,” his mother sobbed. “Let me find out what happened.”
His stepfather shrugged Mary off. “What the fuck!” he said. Then he stood up and stormed from the room.
Mary immediately shut the door behind her and leaned against it for additional protection.
“Victor, honey. Please come out and tell Momma what happened.”
“I got beat up,” Victor sobbed, still wedged between the floor and box spring.
“Walter didn’t mean it,” she said.
“No. At school. They took my shoes.”
“Who beat you up?”
“Come on out, and let’s talk about it.”
Victor listened. It was quiet, and the immediate threat seemed to have passed. Slowly he crawled out and into his mother’s waiting embrace. She clutched him to her chest.
“Oh, my poor little boy. How awful.” Victor sobbed into her shoulder. She just cuddled him and let him cry.
In a bit, Victor rubbed his eyes and nose against her shoulder to dry them. He looked up at his mother. “Am I a Jew?”
“Of course not,” she told him. “You’re a Christian.”
“What’s a Jew?”
“They’re the people who killed Jesus. Why are you so interested in Jews?”
“A kid at school said I was a Jew because I have black hair and brown eyes.”
“Well, you’re not. You have black hair because your father did. He was . . . just a guy.”
“Are my feet the mark of the Devil?”
This time Victor noticed that his mother didn’t reply immediately. “Why would you say that? Don’t worry about things like that.”
Victor rested his cheek against her chest. “But I thought the Romans killed Jesus.”
“The Romans did, but the Jews made them.”
“Why didn’t you try to stop them?”
She chuckled. “I wasn’t there, honey. It was a long time ago.”
“Oh.” He sniffled and rubbed his nose against her shirt again. “Then what difference does it make?”
“It’s complicated. Just try to be a good person.”
“Or the Jews will kill me, too?”
“No. But God will punish you. You don’t want to burn in hell do you?”
Victor shook his head, wondering how much worse hell could be than Watson Elementary School. “I hate it here,” he said. “Why did we have to move?”
“I’ve told you before. I’m married to Walter now. Walter works here in Mansfield. It’s where we live now. We moved here to be a family. Your name is Victor Lawson now. He wants you to be his son.”
“I don’t want him to be my father. I don’t want him to hit me again.”
“You know he doesn’t mean it, baby. He loves you. Besides, I think he’ll calm down after I clean the carpet and explain to him what happened.”
“What if he doesn’t?”
“Well, then let’s just pray again for God to protect us.” She put her palms together and bowed her head. Victor did the same.
“Dear God, please look over us and protect us, especially my son Victor. In your name, we pray. Amen.” She looked at Victor, and he seemed to feel better. “Now God will come and protect you.”
Victor thought about that for a second. “So, when will God finally get here?”
Victor Lawson had been the smartest child in his class since the first grade, but it wasn’t until the fourth grade that he began to suspect he might be smarter than some of his teachers. Mr. Caldwell, his math teacher, was an early disappointment. He was very tall, even for an adult, and he had a deep, authoritative voice. He had introduced himself to the class on the first day and implored the students to, “Ask as many questions as you’d like. That’s the only way you can learn.” So Victor started asking questions. At first, Mr. Caldwell seemed to relish Victor’s curiosity. By Halloween, though, his enthusiasm was beginning to be fade, and, after Victor corrected his calculations in front of the class one time, Mr. Caldwell seemed to pretend not to see Victor’s raised hand most of the time.
In early November, Victor’s mother had come across an electronic calculator at a garage sale. It was covered with more buttons than any calculator she’d ever seen, and, other than basic math signs and a percentage sign, she had no idea what the rest did. But she did know that Victor would love it.
For Victor it was like getting a new puppy. He took it everywhere with him, even to bed at night. He spent hours entering numbers and pressing buttons to see what would appear on the glowing red display. There was one button, though, that he was careful never to press. It was labeled “sin”, and Victor knew that God punished you for sin.
There were some instructions etched on the back, but he didn’t really understand them, so he decided he’d ask his mother. She just smiled and shook her head. “I have no idea. You’ll have to ask your teacher.” That sounded like a good idea.
The next day, Victor raised his hand right after the first bell rang. Mr. Caldwell looked distracted. “Yes, Victor. What is it?”
“What is the sin of an angel?” Some kids laughed at the oddball question.
Mr. Caldwell squinted. “The sin of an angel? Is this a riddle?”
“No. I have a calculator. It has a sin button.”
“A sin button? Really? What does it do?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to press it.” That got more guffaws from his classmates.
“There’s no such thing as a sin button. Now let’s begin class.”
Victor quit listening. He lifted the lid of his desk and felt around in his backpack for the calculator. Finding it, he pulled it out. He looked at it again to make sure there really was a sin button. It was still there. He flipped the calculator onto its back. Yes, there were the words he remembered. He raised his hand again. Mr. Caldwell didn’t notice. Victor waved it from side to side. Mr. Caldwell glanced over at him and seemed to decide he couldn’t just ignore him forever. “Yes, Victor. Now what is it?”
“Here, look.” He held out the calculator with his finger pointing to the words on the back. Mr. Caldwell walked over and looked at the spot. He smiled, then he laughed out loud. “That’s not the sin of an angel. It’s the sine of an angle.” Now the whole class roared with laughter. They didn’t know what that meant, but they could tell Victor had just said something foolish, and that was always funny. Even Mr. Caldwell seemed pleased at Victor’s mistake.
Mr. Caldwell stumbled over the words. “Well, an angle is like this . . .” He walked to the blackboard and drew a sideways “V” with chalk. He pointed to it. “That’s an angle.”
“Then what’s the sine?”
Mr. Caldwell’s face flushed. He mumbled something to himself, then blurted out, “It’s a measure of the angle.”
That seemed like a vague answer. “You mean how big it is?”
“Yeah. That’s right.” Victor could sense Mr. Caldwell’s hesitation.
“So what’s the sine of that angle?”
“It’s this,” Mr. Caldwell said, drawing an arc between the two lines. Victor noticed sweat forming between his teacher’s eyebrows. “Now let’s move on.”
“Show me. Show me on the calculator. What do I do?”
“I’ll do it later,” Mr. Caldwell said. Now his frustration was visible to everyone.
Victor looked around. Some kids were still totally bored by the whole conversation, but he could see that a number of students were looking at him with newfound respect. Victor went for the kill. “You don’t know. Do you?” The gasps of the children around him told him he had done something really impressive.
“Of course I know. Who the hell are you to tell me what I do and don’t know?”
“I think you’re lying.” The chance to be the challenger instead of the challenged gave him an exhilarating feeling of power he’d never felt before. “If you know, then show me.”
Mr. Caldwell marched right up to Victor’s desk, fists clenched and jaw jutting forward. At home, that would mean a beating was coming, but Victor wasn’t worried. This was school, and he knew that teachers had different rules from parents. They got in trouble if they hit kids. So, this was more like taunting the leopard behind the glass at the zoo, and twice as much fun.
“OK. That’s it. Victor, I’ve had it with you. You switch seats with Brett in the back row. And I don’t want to hear another word out of you all day.”
Victor picked up his notebook and slid out of his chair. He marched triumphantly toward his victory seat. He gave Brett a smug smile as he approached and looked for some hint of reciprocation, but Brett just stared dully at the floor. Just as Victor passed Brett, he heard Mr. Caldwell clear his throat. “Thanks to this little ruckus, you’re all going to take a pop quiz. Now put away your books and take out a pencil.”
A jarring elbow to his side let Victor know what Brett thought about that. “You’re dead, butt-hole!” Brett hissed. “Just wait till recess at ten.”
“Can you actually count that high?” Victor snickered, when he was out of fist range.
Of course he got pummeled at recess, but he didn’t care. He knew now that his power was his mind. It’s what made him superior to the other children, and even to his teachers. It gave him the ability to manipulate others. His bruises would heal, but their stupidity would stay with them for the rest of their lives. And one day he would get his revenge on all of them.
Victor Lawson didn’t get picked on much at all anymore. A growth spurt in junior high had left him almost six feet tall and muscular. His physical stature, along with heavy features and a twisted, broken nose (courtesy of Walter, his step father) made him too scary for all but the most determined of bullies. That didn’t mean he didn’t still get into fights, but now they were generally of his own choosing, whether with his fists or his wits. And Victor knew it was the latter his mother worried about the most today.
On that spring morning, the first really warm day all year, Victor found himself sitting in the wood paneled waiting area of the admissions office for the Crosswoods Academy, an exclusive preparatory school, stewing on his mother’s words. All he knew, as he sat there ignoring the very pretty, black-haired receptionist and staring at the floor, was that his mother, his stepfather, and his principal really wanted him to go to this school.
“Please behave,” she had implored him. Not, “Good luck” or “I know you’ll do well.” Just, “Please behave.” Then she’d added, with a hint of trepidation, “A lot of the kids at this school are . . . Well, they’re just not like you, and you need to learn to get along with all kinds of people, especially as you get older.”
He had no doubt he was smart enough, but he had serious doubts about whether he really belonged in a place like this. Other than on TV shows, he’d never seen so many Mercedes, Lexus and BMW cars in one place. His mother’s rusting Dodge Intrepid had drawn stares (and even a few pointing fingers) from the other parents when they’d pulled up at the front drive. And then there was the way that the kids were dressed, all in uniform blazers, khaki pants, white cotton shirts with button-down collars and leather brogues or deck shoes. Victor looked down at his own baggy, frayed jeans and black Converse sneakers, and he felt his face begin to flush with embarrassment.
More than once, he thought about getting up and leaving. Sure, the kids were probably smarter than they were at Calhoun High, but certainly not as smart as he was. Besides, the kids he’d seen in the hallways on his way to the Admissions Office didn’t look like anybody he would want to have as friends. Not that he actually wanted any friends.
“Victor Lawson?” a voice asked.
Victor stood up. “Yeah. That’s me.”
“I’m Avi Morowitz. I’m a junior here,” the curly-haired kid in horn-rimmed glasses and blue blazer said. He stuck out his hand.
“Hi,” Victor said, shaking the limp palm and wondering who in the hell named their kid “Avi”.
“So you want to attend Crosswoods,” Avi said, leading Victor into a small conference room that smelled like Lemon Pledge.
Victor decided to seem interested, at least for the time being. “Yeah. That’s right.”
“Of course. It’s a superlative school.” He looked Victor up and down. “But it’s not for everyone.”
Victor tried to think of what someone who attended the school would say to that. “That’s what I’m counting on.” Avi seemed to like that answer.
“First I’m going to ask you some questions to get a feel for what you know and how you think–just to get a benchmark. Then I’ll tell you a bit about the school and give you a chance to ask some questions. How does that sound?”
“OK. Let’s get started. What’s the square root of 10,000?”
“What’s the square root of 6,241?”
“Hmm.” Victor thought for a second. “79?”
“Well, 6,241 is close to 6,250, which is 625 times 10. The square root of 625 is 25, and the square root of 10 is about equal to pi. So, pi times 25 is something over 75–closer to 78 or so. Since 6241 ends in a one, and nine squared is eighty-one, it makes sense, assuming the answer is an integer, that it’s 79. Plus, 80 squared is too high.”
“Very good. What’s the capital of Uzbekistan?”
“Right. What year was Charlemagne crowned king?”
“800, I think.”
“Yes. What comes between Phylum and Order?”
“Who wrote The Odyssey?”
“My uncle is 25 years older than I will be when I’m half his age. How old am I?”
Victor thought for a second. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“I mean, there’s not enough information to know.”
“Right. How old is my uncle?”
“Right. I have a balloon with a weight tied to it and it’s in a swimming pool underwater remaining motionless without the weight touching the bottom. What happens if I push down on the balloon and move it to a deeper depth?”
“I don’t understand your question. What are you asking?”
“What I’m asking is, does the balloon rise back to its original level or what?”
“Let me think. You’re pushing the balloon to a lower depth. At a lower depth, the pressure would increase, so the balloon would compress, and, um, it would be less buoyant. So I guess the balloon and weight would sink. And, it would sink at a faster rate as it got deeper, right?”
Avi looked a little surprised that he hadn’t stumped Victor with that question. “Yes, that’s correct. Not very many people get that one right. Most people say the balloon rises back to where it was.”
Victor smiled, and Avi looked a little irritated.
“Why are manhole covers round?” he asked.
Victor couldn’t help himself. “Because manholes are round.”
Avi frowned. “Seriously.”
“Seriously, because a circle is the only shape whose cross-section is the same in every direction. Any other shape would let the cover fall into the manhole if you didn’t line it up right.”
Avi shifted forward. The staccato pace of questions was beginning to annoy Victor, and, as he stared into the dark eyes that bore into his, he began to sense that it had somehow gotten personal.
“So,” Avi continued, this time a little more pointedly. “What’s the difference between an enzyme and a hormone?”
Victor didn’t know, but he wasn’t going to tell Avi that. “Well,” he stumbled. Then his lips curled into a wicked smirk. “I guess you can’t hear an enzyme, can you?”
Avi started to smile as well, but then seemed to catch himself. “I’m not sure you’re taking this seriously,” he quipped.
“Sorry. I don’t know. You tell me.”
Avi just said, “Let’s move on,” and Victor wondered if the little shit even knew the answer himself. It was clear to him that the process had degraded into some sort of vendetta to prove Avi was smarter than Victor. The thought that he was being judged, or, worse yet, doubted, by someone like Avi made the hairs tingle on the back of his neck.
“I’m going to give you a sequence of numbers, and I want you to tell me the next one in the sequence. Understand?”
“Yep,” Victor said with a hint of aggression.
“One, two, three, five, eight, thirteen.”
“Twenty-one,” Victor responded immediately.
“Right. One, two, two, four, eight, thirty-two.”
“I think the number you’re looking for is 256.”
“Yes.” Avi stopped there and got quiet.
Victor waited. “Is that it? Are you satisfied? Can we move on now?” he asked.
Avi clearly wasn’t ready to give up yet, and Victor wondered if any other candidates had gotten this far—or were treated with such open disdain. Avi seemed to be searching for something more to stump him. “Ok,” he said. “How about 1/3, 1, 3, 9, 27, 81, 243?”
It was a pathetic sequence based on powers of three, and he’d clearly chosen it on the spot. Avi was looking for 729, but Victor decided to toy with Avi. “Seventeen,” he said defiantly.
“Wrong.” Avi seemed relieved.
“No it isn’t.”
“Yes it is,” Avi protested. “Why would you think it’s seventeen?”
“You tell me.”
“That’s not how it works.”
“I ask the questions and you answer.”
“I need to determine if you’re smart enough to be part of the Crosswoods community.”
Victor fumed. “How do I know you’re smart enough to deserve to have me in your ‘community’?”
“What?” Avi took a deep breath, settled down and regained his composure. “I’ll give you another chance. Let me tell you the next number and then you can try to guess what comes after that. OK?”
“Seventeen,” Victor said with absolute certainty.
“I haven’t even told you what the next number is.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it does.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“How can you say that?” Avi asked with a hint of desperation.
“The next number can always be seventeen, no matter what number you’re thinking of. And if you knew anything about math you’d know why.”
“What are you talking about?” Avi had lost all control of the conversation at this point.
“Look,” Victor said with open contempt. “For every n points, I can fit an n-minus-one order equation through them. That means if you give me n numbers, I can make the next one 17 and fit an n’th order equation through all them, proving that 17 is the correct next number, no matter what numbers you give me or what number you think the next one should be.”
“Yes. So this whole line of questioning is bullshit. What you’re really asking is whether I can guess what you’re thinking, and that has nothing to do with math or my intelligence. So, in fact, this whole process is just about you trying to prove how smart you are because you think you’re better than me, don’t you? Well, let me tell you, I wake up every morning and thank God I’m not like you. Fuck! I always heard you people were supposed to be so smart.”
“What people would that be? Students at Crosswoods?”
“You know what I’m talking about.” Victor said. He smirked and slowly drew a swastika on the table top with the Crosswoods Academy pen he’d been provided. “You people,” Victor repeated.
At that point, Avi lost it. His faced flushed, and his mouth hung limply open. He tried to say something, but the words wouldn’t leave his throat. He sank back in defeat, then lunged forward as if to attack, but, once again, there was clearly nothing he could think of to say that could even begin to convey his anger and indignation. Finally, he just muttered, “Interview over,” and stormed out of the room.
Victor pursed his lips and puffed out his chest. Then, in triumph, he stood up and marched out of the conference room and into the outer office. The receptionist looked up blankly. Victor blew her a kiss and strutted out the door.
He’d won! Fuck these little pricks! He didn’t need to go to school here. He already knew everything they could teach him. And, besides, anything that mattered, he’d taught himself, and that wasn’t going to change, regardless of where he went to school. All that mattered at that moment was that Avi What’s-his-Fuck knew he’d been bested by Victor Lawson. Go home in your daddy’s Mercedes and try to console yourself now that you know that a guy like me just shit all over you and your “community”!
The notice of rejection from the Crosswoods Academy reached the Lawson household before Victor even made it home on the bus. In fact, it was much more than a rejection; it also included a stern warning that, if Victor Lawson ever came within 100 yards of the Crosswoods Academy, the administration would press charges.
“You’re just a dumb punk, you know that?” his stepfather bellowed at him after dinner when Mary finally told Walter the news. “You may be smart, but you can be really stupid too, you know. You got no self-control at all. Keep it up and you’ll end up in jail before you make it out of high school. Now get the fuck out of my face.”
Victor stomped out of the living room and started up the half-flight of stairs to his bedroom, but he knew he would go crazy if he stayed in the house. The electrical storm in his brain demanded he do something physical to extinguish it, so he turned and leapt back onto the landing, wrenching open the front door and storming outside.
He ran for the open garage and retrieved his bicycle. Pedaling furiously up the street, he felt the cleansing evening air wash his lungs. With nowhere in particular to go, he headed toward the lights from the town center a half mile ahead.
Victor could hear the chanting when he was still blocks from the square, even though he couldn’t make out the words. The lights seemed particularly bright as he approached, and there were more people milling in the street than he’d ever seen there. When he was just a half a block away, he noticed a news van parked against the curb with a bank of spotlights erected on the roof.
He skidded his bike to a stop in front of the closed diner at the corner, dismounted and popped it over the curb, leaving it leaning against the granite steps. Now he could hear the screams of, “White power! White power!” against the jeers of the crowd. Timidly, he rounded the corner and stared across the street to the grass field in front of the tall, bronze statue commemorating local soldiers who had died. He spotted six men in black jeans and black shirts wearing calf-high, lace-up boots standing around the base of the monument, their shaved heads glistening under the news-camera lights. One of them was holding a megaphone, his face contorted as he exhorted, “We are the saviors of the white, Christian race! Join us or die at the hands of the false Israelites!” The other men stood, arms crossed in front of their chests, their steely stares glaring from under furled brows.
Victor pushed his way through the crowds to get a closer look. As he did, disgusted citizens fought their way back towards him, faces scowling and muttering to themselves.
“The Jew is the false Israelite! You, the white Christian, are the true Chosen People! You are the descendants of Adam! The Jew is the spawn of the devil! You are his sworn enemy!”
Victor finally managed to swim upstream to the front of the crowd. Now he stood less than fifteen feet from the band of fuming men. A row of police ringed the monument, facing outward to the disgusted crowd who booed and hissed.
“Who will join us?” the leader demanded. The sound of the loudspeaker rang in Victor’s ears. “Who will help us save the world before it’s too late?”
The man glared at the crowd, sweat dripping from his bald head onto the gray steps below.
Victor raised his hand, slowly.
“Do you have a question?” the black-shirted man screamed. “Or are you just scratching your armpit?”
Victor cleared his throat. “I will,” he said.
“I can’t hear you!”
Victor screamed, “I will! I will help you save the world!”
And, for the first time in his life, Victor Lawson finally knew where he belonged.