The following day, Caleb returned to school expecting some kind of backlash as he normally received whenever he was suspended. But not such retaliation came. If anything, people gave him a wide berth. Though all the whispering became even more abundantly obvious.
I figured I wasn’t going to escape this shit he thought to himself as rumors circulated and floated around him all day. Nothing though could bring down his mood, he just had to put up with another week of this nonsense.
All the while Caleb’s thoughts were the clouds, looking forward to an extended spring break, the eyes were on him.
It had been a long time since any of the old stories began cropping up regarding Caleb. Even a year ago, the attention wasn’t on him. But now, as texts were flying between students, the rumor mill began pulling up the exaggerations of his past brawls.
As the day drew to a close, Caleb went to the library to hide out from the crowd of people either heading into the student parking or the buses. As Caleb walked through the shelves, he spotted the principal walking with a group following behind them. Caleb watched closely for a moment before turning his head back to the books, though he did keep his ears open.
“Our library is home to our technology department and houses our computer labs. While not all of you will participate in our technology courses, we would like to familiarize you with what we have in case we ask you to cover.”
Some of the young adults following turned on some of the computers to see what they would be working with. Murmurs of disappointment spread amongst the group. A young woman whispered amongst them, “What do you guys expect?” before turning back to the short woman who had paused her explanation as the computer engineering students looked through the equipment the school had to offer.
Caleb listened curiously from the bookshelves, thinking to himself Yeah not exactly the most well-funded school.
“Looks like we have to make do with whatever hand-me-downs this school gets,” someone spoke out.
That’s not entirely incorrect Caleb thought holding back a snicker. The principal managed to hold back a snide remark. She knew if this student-teacher program succeeded it just meant credit on her end for when it came to leaving this dump.
“Well from here let’s move on to our athletic department. Thanks to some generous donations from the university we managed to upgrade our equipment.”
“Again...more hand-me-downs,” Caleb said out loud as he collected his things. When he heard laughing, he looked up. Shit, he thought to himself as the principal glared at him. He turned in a stack of books and left with a similar stack of new books in his arms. He excused himself to the student-teachers but before he could leave, the principal stonewalled him.
Caleb’s eyes narrowed at the woman, she was new so he hadn’t been able to get a read on her like the dean of students, but he didn’t like her nonetheless. She made a move to grab Caleb but someone caught her wrist. It was a taller woman, with short black hair and arms to make any of the would-be tough guys around the school jealous. She was at least half a head taller than Caleb. Her hands gripped the principal’s wrist tightly, refusing to budge no matter how hard the rotund tried to pull her wrist free.
“You shouldn’t be touching the students,” she spoke calmly before motioning Caleb to leave, which he did gladly. While he didn’t hear the end of this conversation the two women had, if he ever saw her again, he would make sure to thank her.
Arlan sipped on a coffee as Caleb approached the Gran Torino. The last of the students had left just as Caleb arrived. He had already switched over to the passenger seat when he arrived at the school, so Caleb slipped into the driver’s side after putting his bag and stack of books in the back seat.
“What’s got you all flustered?” Arlan asked, noticing the pinkish scar across his grandson’s face, seemed to glow a light red color, and at the mention of that, the blush seemed only to glow brighter.
“I...uh….an older woman helped me out….she was...jacked though…” Caleb stammered out as he brought the engine to life.
“Oh, so that’s your type?”
“Wait...what...no we’re not having that talk...no no no…” Caleb began as he started driving home.
“No need to be ashamed, boy, everyone has a type. If you like a woman that can kick your ass, well that’s the Irish in you. You might not look the part but you’ve got my blood flowing in you.”
“We are not doing this right now…” Caleb slapped his forehead before pushing his hair back.
“So is that why you don’t hang around girls your age? You want a cradle robber, I see…”
“Please stop talking…” Caleb slammed his head against the steering wheel.
“Just remember, wait until you're 18 so neither of you can get into any trouble.”
“Why...just why did I bring this up.”
Arlan chuckled, “Your grandmother, she was the feisty type as well, Not so much physically strong, but it was her attitude alone that could send a bear packing its bags.” Arlan paused “Your mother was a firecracker too. She often pushed your dear ol’ dad buttons to the point he’d do something stupid to either impress her or get her forgiveness. Auryn was a pushover if I had ever seen one.”
“Just one ear and out the other with you, huh Gramps?’
“Ya know me so well.” he chuckled as Caleb scratched his head while they continued driving.
Once the pair arrived home, Caleb dressed in his usual workout attire, sporting a pair of loose athletic shorts and a form-fitting shirt. His grandfather wore a similar pair of dark-colored shorts though went bare-chested.
Caleb then donned some headgear and bit down on a mouthpiece before he strapped on his MMA gloves. The gloves were decently padded and gave him more freedom to grapple. Arlan on the other hand put on a worn pair of boxing gloves and forwent a mouthguard. “Let’s see how much you’ve improved,” Arlan spoke with a confident grin before stepping onto the thin foam mats that covered the backyard.
Caleb brought his hands up and nodded. “Lesh do shiss.” Arlan laughed and mirrored his grandson's posture, though leading with his left leg rather than his right.
Before Arlan could even process his grandson’s southpaw stance, jabs began peppering at his guarded position. Even with the height disadvantage, Caleb’s unorthodox lead allowed his jabs to sneak in. Though like always, Arlan and Caleb both knew his punches lacked power. In between the rhythm Caleb had established for himself he noticed his grandfather crouch down.
Caleb gritted his teeth and brought his left hand in front of him in an attempt to block the incoming strike.
Even so, his grandfather’s power was evident. The punch lifted Caleb into the air about an inch and before he could even find his base once again, a heavy cross came in like a spear. Caleb gasped and gritted his teeth as he was pushed back.
“Not as spry as I used to be.” Arlan rolled his neck and shoulders as Caleb gripped his stomach. Caleb barely had enough time to tighten his core in an attempt to protect himself.
“Fucking hell,” Caleb managed to curse out as he regained his stance.
With that Arlan rushed him, and Caleb stood his ground. He wasn’t going to run. Arlan's heavy fist came bearing down on Caleb once he had gotten into range. But Arlan hadn’t anticipated this. With perfect timing, Caleb stopped his grandfather’s rush by using a well-timed stop kick. Arlan coughed as Caleb retracted his leg and stepped to the side as his grandfather tried to continue his charge. Caleb could almost read his grandfather’s moves and openings as well as Arlan could read him but his speed gave him a step up.
Once more punches flew and struck Arlan on the side of the head and along his stomach though they did little against him. “Throw yer back into it, boy!” he roared out as he fired back with a powerful straight. Shit, that one might be a little too hard for the boy he thought just before there was a flash of light just before his world went dark.
When the world seeped back into view, Caleb was leaning over him. “Gramps, you good?”
“Uhh...rughh….nnugh…” Arlan gurgled out as Caleb helped his grandfather into a sitting position, “Son….What happened?” A dull pain came from his jaw as he spoke.
“Well...I redirected your punch,” Caleb helped his grandfather to his feet, “...pulled you into my knee. I didn’t think it would work.”
“Fuckin’ hell...worked like a charm.” Arlan nursed his jaw as Caleb helped him inside, “Looks like I don’t need to worry about taking it easy on you.” he chuckled as Caleb only shook his head and smiled.
“Rest up, gramps.”
“Yeah, yeah...let this old man lick his wounds. Though I think my pride hurts more than my jaw.”