Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
A flawless saying used against bullies to defend yourself from teasing… according to parents and teachers.
Her name was Bessie. Bessie moved here during fifth grade right before Christmas. By that time all of us had our groups set. Our own friends. We weren’t quite willing to move over to make room for someone new. Especially ‘Moo Cow Bessie’.
It wasn’t my idea to call her Moo Cow. She wasn’t even that fat, a little chunky sure, but no more than any other kid that age. That was Kyle’s idea.
Kyle was one of the popular kids. He always had the coolest birthday parties and sleepovers. To be on the invitation list was a blessing from the gods. I always wanted to be go. So when Bessie was introduced to the class, and when Kyle took one look at her and muttered ‘Mooooo’, well, the deal was sealed.
I didn’t really know Bessie. She was very quiet, liked to keep to herself. But every chance Kyle got to pick on her he did, and soon we all joined in.
I wish all I did was ‘moo’ at her like everyone else. Whenever Bessie walked to the front of the class, the quiet chorus would start up.
Poor Bessie would sink her shoulders in and say nothing. The teacher would step in once he heard it, but Mr. Ford was half deaf and we all knew it.
The teasing got taken up a notch when Bessie was picked to sing a solo at the Christmas program. Bessie could sing very well. For cliché’s sake, she sounded like an angel when she sung. The first time she sung for the class even Kyle was spell bound.
That didn’t last long.
See, Kyle had a twin sister Kylie. I didn’t care about Kylie. She was a girl. But Kylie had also tried out for the solo, and she got overlooked. It wasn’t exactly a shocker- Kylie had the singing skill of a blender full of nuts and bolts. But Kyle took insult to the fact ‘Moo Cow Bessie’ got the part and his sister was just part of the choir.
So he settled on a plan.
Post it notes covered in slobbering cow heads doodles covered her locker. The mooing followed Bessie onto the bus, and since the bus driver didn’t give two shits unless someone pulled like a knife, we’d moo all the way to Bessie’s house. An entire school bus of children mooing at the top of their lungs. I bet most of the kids didn’t even know why they were mooing. Poor Bessie would shrink in her seat and hum under her breath.
I take full blame for the milk prank.
I wanted to impress Kyle, his birthday was in January and I was determined to get on that invite list. No matter what it took. So when a gallon of milk went bad at my house, I snuck it into my school bag and approached Kyle at lunch.
Kyle looked up at me, raising an eyebrow. “Andrew?” He guessed.
“Adrian, actually.” I sat next to Kyle, much to the table’s bafflement, and lowered my voice. “I want your help to prank Bessie.”
That got Kyle’s attention. He grinned and leaned in. “Whatcha got in mind?” He asked.
I told him about the milk and reminded him that dress rehearsal was that night. You could see the wheels turning in Kyle’s head as he put together my plan. He clapped a hand on my shoulder and I felt like God himself had given his approval to me.
“Adrian, I never thought I’d say this, but you’re a genius.”
That night we laid off of Bessie. No more mooing, no more snickering whenever she walked passed. Kyle even gave her a pep talk before she went up for her solo, telling her she was going to do great and that he was sorry for being jealous.
I never saw Bessie so happy as she did on that stage. I never would again.
We were hiding out by the playground, Kyle had set up that Bessie would come meet him so he could ‘give her more tips’.
I was the one holding the milk jug. I was the one that tipped it over her head when she was facing Kyle, completely unaware I was there.
Chunky milk spilled down Bessie’s hair and dress, her eyes popping out and her mouth formed an ‘o’ shape. Then she smelled it and immediately hurled, vomit splattered on the ground and her shoes.
Kyle started laughing hysterically and we all popped out of our hiding spots, mooing at the top of our lungs. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I saw the exact moment where Bessie accepted her situation. That she was a ‘Moo Cow’, that everyone hated her and that she would always be the butt of the joke.
She ran off home crying. Kyle let me sleep over at his house that weekend. We ate ice cream and made more jokes about Moo Cows. By Monday the choir teacher let us know that Bessie had chosen to drop out and that Kylie would be taking her place.
This is also when Bessie started wearing hats to school.
When she initially came into class, I didn’t even realize it was her. She was wearing a beanie and her hair was all pulled up into it. Mr. Ford looked up and frowned. “Bessie, dress code states-” Before he could finish that sentence, Bessie shoved a piece of paper into Mr. Ford’s hands.
He took a few minutes to read it before his expression changed to shock. “Oh, Bessie, I’m… I’m so sorry, do I need to do anything?”
Bessie stole the piece of paper back and wrote down something before lifting it up. Mr. Ford read it again before nodding. “Of course, of course. Whatever you need. I’m here for you Bessie.”
When Bessie passed Kyle’s desk, I heard him quietly mutter ‘moo’.
But this time Bessie didn’t just retreat back to her desk.
With her full strength, she shoved over Kyle’s desk, sending him to the floor along with his friend Ben. Kyle shouted in shock as Bessie walked to sit next to Kylie, crossing her legs and smiling pretty. She set her hand on Kylie’s shoulder and squeezed like they were old pals. Kylie looked baffled but said nothing. She probably didn’t want to get shoved over too.
Kyle set back up his desk while complaining loudly that Bessie attacked him. Mr. Ford claimed he didn’t see anything, but I saw a gleam behind those thick glasses that I hadn’t before. Perhaps Mr. Ford hadn’t been so ignorant of Bessie’s torment.
Bessie no longer seemed able to talk. Mr. Ford never called on her or tried to make her speak. Even when it came to our Christmas Vacation report Bessie got a pass to turn in a written report instead of speaking it in front of the class.
Kylie was now Bessie’s ‘best friend’. Bessie walked everywhere with Kylie. She’d give Kylie little gifts, from cute erasers to little homemade pies that could fit in your hand. Kylie seemed too afraid to deny any of these gifts. Bessie would always have this little smirk when she delivered these gifts. Like she was aware that the whole school knew that ‘Moo Cow Bessie’ was now Kylie’s BFF. She even made them best friend bracelets, which of course Kylie had to wear daily wherever she went.
I guess that’s why Bessie got invited to the twins’ birthday bash and sleepover. After all, they were ‘best friends.’
By this time, Bessie had gained a lot more weight, but it wasn’t fat, it was muscle. One of her arms was thicker than two of mine put together. She must have had her dress taken out- I recognized the stains on it. It was the one she wore to the dress rehearsal.
It was everything I thought it would be. The newest video games we could all play. An ice cream bar. Pizza of every combination of toppings. There was even party games that had prizes like full size candy bars or money.
It was almost midnight when Kylie stood up, Bessie standing behind her with her little smile.
“Hey, everyone! It’s… it’s time for hide and seek in the dark!”
Kyle looked confused, but his confusion was outweighed by everyone’s excitement. Kyle’s house had a big forest behind it, it was the perfect place to play hide and seek. The dark added an element of fun to it.
We all marched outside, Kylie saying she’d seek first. I climbed up in a tree and wrapped my hoodie around myself. Even if Kylie found me she wouldn’t be able to get me. I thought it was perfect.
As time wore on though, I started to get bored. No one was running around, there wasn’t any giggling or loud complaining when someone got found. I was starting to consider hopping down when someone stumbled out of the bushes.
I only recognized her as Bessie after she pitched a rock at my chest, sending me toppling from the tree.
I fell with a scream, hitting the ground with a crack. My whole body went cold except for the fiery hot pain in my back. I couldn’t move. I could barely breathe.
I saw Bessie’s vomited soiled shoes step into my line of sight before she bent over to look me in the eyes.
She’d stopped wearing the hat now. Her brown hair mixed with clumpy white locks was wild and thick, and her eyes had gone almost completely black. But what scared me most was the horns. Two sharp, ivory horns, sticking out from her temples.
Bessie gripped her weapon, a sharpened stick that was already covered with blood and gore. She raised it in the air like a spear.
Then Kyle barreled though the bushes.
“Adrian? Adrian are you okay- OH MY GOD!”
Bessie turned and charged with a bellow. Her horns impaled him right through his belly. I saw Kyle’s face go white as a sheet before Bessie tossed her head back, throw him to the ground. She then used the stick, stabbing him repeatedly until it snapped… and then she beat his already dead body with her hands.
She only let up when Kylie cried out, “He’s dead already! Stop it! Please, please stop!”
Bessie slowly craned her neck to the sighed and made a soft humming sound. Kylie walked out, her face covered in tears. “I did what you wanted, okay!? Please just leave me alone!”
Bessie contemplated this for a moment before she cocked her head at me. Kylie walked up to me, kneeling by my limp body.
“… He’s dead. Please, just… just go.”
I must’ve passed out after that. I woke up in the hospital.
I was the only survivor, but I would never walk again. Every other kid had been killed in horrific ways before their bodies were mutilated. Kyle had the worst done to him- they only ID’d him because he was the only other boy unaccounted for. Kylie hadn’t been found. Neither had Bessie. The police chalked it up to whoever had done this had kidnapped the two girls. They’d probably never find out what happened to them.
My class was so much emptier after the birthday party massacre. It was the most morbid silence. Even knowing what happened, some kids tried calling me wheels to tease me. I learned to ignore them.
Sticks and stones, after all.