This is it. Teddy glanced at his red G-Shock timepiece before his umber gaze returned to the busy streets of downtown Dallas, Texas. Eventually, pedestrians dressed in semi-casual clothes merged into a sea of maroon suit-jackets as the taxi turned into the entrance to the King’s Academy.
A fiery sensation stirred up in Teddy’s chest. He straightened his posture and scoffed as his proud eyes darted about the various faces of his peers. Teddy turned to face the building as the car drove off; his eyes aglow under the fulgent patterns of sunlight. The glory of the Kings’ Academy unfurled before him.
The building was symmetrical; its walls painted in ash lavender and bluebell. To his immediate left was the track and field sprawled out in its green and red glory, with pavilions that formed a semi-circle. As he surmounted a short flight of cascading steps, the sound of the school’s banner blowing in the wind caught his attention. He stopped, looked up, squinting at the sight. “King’s Academy” was printed upon the white standard, along with the school’s monogram.
“Hey, man,” a tall, muscular student shouted as he zoomed by, before halting at the top of the stairs. “You’ll be late for orientation!”
Teddy scoffed, flicked his brow with his thumb, and raced up the stairs. Eventually, he made his way into the auditorium through the gaping twin doors. Standing among the sea of greenhorns, Teddy slowly began feeling out of place. There were parents smiling and speaking with their children as the principal gave her formal address. With arms folded, he focused on the words of the principal as she dawned upon the end of her speech.
Teddy whipped out his smartphone as the crowds began to disperse. The King’s Academy app on his device had sent him a notification. His first class was due in five minutes. Teddy opened the application, and used the school map to locate his classroom. Up the stairs and down the hall Teddy walked until he came to stand before a room that faced the auditorium.
As Teddy heaved open the wooden door, he was assailed by the noise of commotion emanating from the center of the class where the students had formed a crowd. Teddy entered with caution, his eyes riveted to the tumult. Suddenly, he noticed the student who had run past him at the entrance, standing uncomfortably in the middle of the crowd.
“All that muscle is for show, Marcus,” a tall, well-built student said before jeering erupted. The boy put his foot up on Marcus’ desk, kicking Marcus’ bookbag off the edge.
“Leave me alone, Raymond.”
“Real athletes understand that it takes much more than muscle to master the art of dodgeball.”
“Are you supposed to be a ‘real athlete?’” Teddy asked. Suddenly, the laughter ceased, and all eyes fell on Teddy. “You might wanna see a doctor for that athlete’s foot you got up on the desk there.” A few snickers sounded amidst the crowd.
“Mind your business, Clark Kent, or I’ll make you mind it.”
“This is my business, Raymond.” Teddy slowly approached him as the crowd parted to make way. “Couldn’t hear you through the noise—so I had to get real close.” Teddy glared at him with dauntless eyes. “So, what’s it gonna be?”
“A match,” Raymond quickly answered. “Only your skills on the court matter in the school.”
“Yeah, I don’t think so,” Teddy replied before glinting to Marcus. “You good, bro?”
“Yeah, he’s good,” Raymond intervened. “He’s a coward—like you. And now, everybody knows it.” He laughed. “Scared of a little dodgeball game. Ha!”
The students began laughing softly among themselves. Teddy lowered his gaze, staring at his clenched fist. A smirk appeared on his face as he stood with his back turned to the crowd.
“Go ahead and walk away,” shouted one of Raymond’s friends. “You know you’ll get smoked anytime you step on that court.”
“Alright . . . Game on then,” said Teddy.
“What was that?” Raymond asked, causing Teddy to turn around.
“I said, ‘game on.’”
“You hear that everyone?” Raymond asked. “Superman here wants to bite the kryptonite.” He laughed ushering in a chorus of jeering from the class. Suddenly, he turned to Teddy again. “You know what they call me?”
“Am I supposed to care?” Teddy retorted.
“They call me Stingray. You know why?”
“You do know that you can spare me the preamble to the reveal—and just say it, right?”
“I’ve been undefeated since little league dodgeball; the best of my last school.”
“Yeah?” Teddy answered. “Well, don’t you worry. I’ll put you right back where you belong soon enough.”
Raymond became livid. Just then, the teacher walked in and ordered everyone to their seats. Raymond and Teddy were the only one’s left standing now. Teddy was facing his new desk but with his shoulder to Raymond who was staring right at him.
“Is there a problem here?” Mr. Juggernaut asked in a stern voice as he came to stand in the space between them?
“No, sir,” answered the two in unison.
Teddy took his seat right then, and Raymond eventually followed. Their math teacher, Mr. Juggernaut began to address the class, revealing his expectations for the semester. But all Teddy could think about was putting Raymond in his place. Soon class was dismissed. Teddy stood up, strapped on his knapsack, and started towards the door.
“Hey, loser,” shouted Raymond. “Three o’clock on the dot—don’t be late. I’ll make the arrangements for the small gym on the east wing to be made ready.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Teddy exited the classroom through the door and started down the hall. Suddenly, he heard heavy footfalls pacing behind him. He scoffed, lowered his gaze, readying himself for a fight. As the footsteps drew closer, he spun around.
“Hey, man—be easy, it’s me,” Marcus said, wearing a nervous grin.
“Sorry, man,” Teddy replied. “I thought you were Raymond for a minute.”
“Yeah, about that . . . Are you sure you wanna go up against him?” Marcus said as they walked together.
“Somebody has to teach him some humility.”
“Yeah, but he’s probably the best in the entire school at this point. I don’t think it’s worth it, man.”
“I like a good challenge.” Teddy smiled.
“You’re crazy, you know that, right?” Marcus said, wagging his head. “Hey, where are you heading to now?”
“I got physics, so, down to room A12,” answered Teddy.
“Same here, man.”
“Alright then, great.”
Marcus sat next to Teddy as they settled down in the class. Their physics teacher Ms. Hildreth was a beautiful, young damsel. Her straightened dark brown hair danced upon her shoulders as she moved around her desk, preparing for the class ahead. Her pretty, brown, almond shaped eyes surveyed the class now and again. Marcus was spellbound, and Teddy couldn’t help but notice. Her smooth tan skin radiated in the natural light seeping through the glass windows. Her flowing purple dress fell below her knees. Teddy snapped his fingers in the line of Marcus’ vision, waking Marcus from his untimely woolgathering.
“Focus, man.” Teddy laughed.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Marcus reached into his bag and pulled out a random notebook followed by stationary.”
“Oh, we won’t be using those today, Mr. Moussa,” said Ms. Hildreth. “You can put them away.”
“Dude, she knows my name,” Marcus whispered.
“She knows everyone’s names, bro. They’re right up there.” Teddy pointed to a collage with all their photos and names at the front of the class on the wall to his right.
“That’s correct, Mr. Walker.” Slowly, Ms. Hildreth approached the two young men. “Now, when Marcus and Walker are ready, let’s begin by introducing ourselves, so that we can all get acquainted. Tell us your name, your hobbies, and anything else you wish to share with the class. After you, Marcus.” She gestured to him with her hand.
“My name is Marcus,” he said as he rose to his feet, “and—and I love Miss—I mean—I love physics.” The entire class erupted in laughter. “Physics is my favorite subject . . .” Marcus slumped back down in his chair, visibly embarrassed.
Teddy stood up next, all eyes were on him as Ms. Hildreth tried to quiet the class. Teddy cleared his throat, relaxed his shoulders, and waited patiently for complete silence.
“My name is Teddy Walker, hailing all the way from Portland, Maine, and I’m going to be the king of the court someday.” He sat down in his seat; a proud smirk fading from his lips. Then suddenly, he stood back up again. “Uh, one more thing: this here is my new friend Marcus—one of the coolest guys I’ve met here so far. Show him some respect, y’all.”
“Do you know what plays a major role in excelling at dodgeball, Teddy?”
“I’ll take a wild guess and say physics,” Teddy answered.
“That’s actually correct, Miss replied. “You two seem to have good heads on your shoulders. Keep it up.” She walked to the front of the class. “All right, that was exciting. Who’s next?”
When class had ended, Teddy and Marcus raced to the cafeteria to grab a snack before their next class. Teddy zoomed down the hall, meandering between students as they poured into the hall with Marcus lagging behind. Eventually, Teddy arrived in the cafeteria and ordered chilidogs for both himself and Marcus.
“Wait, you bought this for me?”
“Of course, man.” Teddy smiled before taking a bite from his chili dog. “This is good food, man.” He laughed; his mouth stuffed with meaty goodness.
“You gotta get all the carbs and protein in now,” Marcus said. “You’re gonna need it later.” Just then, Raymond and his crew entered the mess hall. “Don’t look now, It’s Raymond.
Teddy immediately turned around and waved conspicuously until Raymond laid eyes on him.
“I specifically said, ‘don’t look now.’” Marcus turned his back to them and continued to eat his snack.
“What’s up losers,” Raymond said. “Ready to be embarrassed later?”
“If I say yes, would you go away?” Teddy answered. Marcus smirked a bit louder than he had hoped for.
“Something funny there, mesomorph?” Raymond lurched towards Marcus causing Teddy to spring to his feet.
“Easy, Teddy,” Marcus said, “he’s not worth it.”
“Teddy?” Raymond burst out in laughter. “That’s your name?” He high-fived one of his crew. “You’re in over your head, Teddy. I guess I’ll have to beat all that stuffing out ya, and send you back to the Build-A-Bear Foundation.” He cackled before turning to walk away. “Smoke ya later, Teddy.”
Teddy felt he had watched him on one of those Disney Channel Movies. Just feels embarrassing to watch in-person.
“That guy,” Marcus said. “I really hope you beat him in that match—”
“I’m gonna,” Teddy said, cutting him off. “I can’t allow that smug bastard to walk around with all that pride any longer.”
Marcus witnessed the fire in his eyes. He was centered, focused, determined. When the final bell rang, Marcus hurried from his class to the gym where the match was set to be had. As Marcus burst into the gym, he fell into the company of Raymond’s crew.
“Where’s Teddy? Did he run away?”
“No way!” Marcus said. “He’ll be here.”
“He better,” said Raymond as he struck Marcus with the ball in his stomach. “Or you’ll have to take his place on the court.”
Just then, Teddy entered the gym. As he saw Raymond’s crew surrounding his friend, he bolted towards them.
“What’s up then?” he said as he assumed a fighting stance.
“He’s good,” Raymond said. “Just you and me, on the court.” He tossed the ball to Teddy. “Let’s dance.”
Teddy stood on the polished court in his red and white pumped-up kicks. He adjusted his sweat bands. Inspired deeply, and fixed his eyes on Raymond. Raymond was geared in all black, with black and blue gym shoes. The match was set. Members from their class had come to watch the battle. Suddenly coach Edwards stepped onto the court.
“You boys know the rules: keep it clean and friendly.” He shot his hand into the air then yelled, “Now, don’t hold anything back. First round. Let’s go!”
Raymond grabbed a ball from his rack as Teddy stood on his side, breathing calmly.
“Alright, dodge this!” Raymond leapt into the air before hurling the ball with all his might.
He’s fast, Teddy thought as he barely sidestepped the assault. He’s got good accuracy. I’ll have to move a bit more it seems. Teddy grabbed a ball, steadied himself, then launched it at his opponent. Raymond cartwheeled out of the path to everyone’s astonishment.
The crowd went wild. In a flash, Raymond had another ball in his hands. He lurched forward and pitched the ball in the direction that Teddy ran. As it struck him on his calve, he stumbled and fell to the ground.
“Two more and you’re out, Teddy,” Raymond said, “Then it’s back home to mommy.”
As Teddy sprung to his feet another ball struck him in the center of his chest, knocking the wind right out of him. Marcus looked on from the bleachers. He had been cheering for Teddy but his deep voice was drowned out by the crowd.
“That’s the best you can do, Stingray,” Teddy stood up again. “That felt more like a ray of sunshine.”
“We’ll see how funny you are when I strike you out.” Ray snatched up two balls from the rack. “And I haven’t even shown you my special move yet.”
“Is it gonna be as pathetic as the last two?” Teddy taunted.
In that moment, Teddy leapt into the air, mimicking Raymond’s move. Raymond narrowly evaded the strike; his face painted with anger.
“It took me days to perfect that move,” Raymond blurted out. “Don’t you dare try to use it against me!”
He launched two balls in succession in his fury. Teddy flipped into the air, evading the onslaught. But as his feet touched the ground, another ball came flying at his head. As he maneuvered his way out the direction of the ball, a sinister grin crept upon his face.
“Alright, enough games.” He assumed a battle stance. “It’s time to play for real now.”
“Yeah right,” Raymond retorted. “We all know you’ve been giving it all you’ve got—”
Suddenly, a ball struck him right in the center of his face, Knocking him to the ground. Teddy grabbed up two more and quickly resumed his place in the center on his side of the field.
No way he could throw the ball that fast, I barely saw it coming, Raymond thought as he stumbled to his feet. Could he have been holding back all this time? Raymond growled. As Raymond launched a ball at Teddy, Teddy countered causing Raymond’s ball to rebound and strike him on the shin, before following up with another wind-bending strike that knocked Raymond to the ground.
Dusting his shirt, Teddy looked at the defeated Raymond, wincing on the ground, still feeling the aftermath of the strike.
“There’s only one reason you lost, Raymond.” Teddy exclaimed with no hint of playfulness in his voice “I was better in every conceivable way. You had no chance.”
At that moment, the match was over. The crowd sat in awe. Teddy had become the victor.