Declan Murphy didn’t have any real friends when he got to Trinity High. It’s not important why—he knew some of the people, but anyone he’d been close to had moved away or gone to Cliffside or been sent to a boarding school.
His older brother was a Senior—but you know how it is. Seniors don’t talk to Freshmen. Not unless it’s to make fun of their floppy, unkempt hairstyle and purposely ratty clothes. Or, alternatively, if the freshman in question is attractive and of the appropriate gender.
It was raining that first day of school, which only made the unfamiliar faces that much stranger for not being properly seen. It set the tone.
Declan liked the rain, though. Liked it more than people, anyway, and the feeling was mutual.
“Murphy!” the Civics teacher yelled at him. “You Tommy’s brother?”
“Eyes over here!”
He paid better attention, though, with rain to look at.
After class, my brother Jasper caught up with him. “Hey.”
He’d been running and he was out of shape. Had Declan wondering why he would run. It made his lanky figure ungainly.
“Hey,” said Declan.
“Your name Murphy?”
“It’s Declan,” he said. “Declan Murphy. Tommy’s brother.”
Not that that would mean anything to a fellow freshman.
“I’m Jasper,” said my brother. “My sister’s Aly—I don’t know if you know her. I think I know a Tommy, though.” He did. “My other sister’s Kassandra—you probably wouldn’t know her. She just started at Cliffside Middle.”
“That’s cool,” said Declan, though it really wasn’t and he still wasn’t sure why he was talking to this guy.
“So you know uh,” Jasper stammered, “You ever heard of Murphy’s Law?”
How anyone who bore the brunt of that name could have not heard of Murphy’s Law is beyond me, but my brother was never the sharpest note in the song.
“Yeah,” said Declan.
Jasper nodded sagely, then flashed a rather gap-toothed smile. “Any relation?”
Their friendship would have been aborted in its infancy at this moment if not for a sudden encounter with Otis Ratson.
“Lunch money,” said the bored-sounding blob under the Sports Team-X baseball cap, extending an almost gelatinous hand at them. He looked more like a minimum-wage ticket checker at a movie theater than a thug.
“Are you kidding me?” said Declan.
“Nope,” said Otis, but the vowel sound took up at least three syllables.
“Aw, man,” said my brother, already reaching into his pocket.
But Declan held up his hand. “No, no, hold on,” he said, “Are you collecting for the school? Are you the official lunch-money receiver? If we give you money, will we get our lunch?”
Otis seemed to think on this a moment. “Yeah?”
“How will they know we gave you our money? Do we get, like, a voucher?”
“Could give you a black eye, [if it would] make you feel better.”
It was Otis’s cadence that made it clear several words were missing from his structure.
“So you’ll give us a black eye if we do give you the money?”
Otis was silent.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Declan Murphy.
Otis stood there a moment longer before finally stating “Dammit, Murph, this here’s why nobody likes you.” Then he walked off.
“What the hell was that?” said Jasper.
“I don’t know,” said Declan. “Been dealing with that boy for years, never know what’s going on in his head.”
My brother, who was used to having longer hair, instinctively brushed his hair through it before realizing it was cut very short. “You just made that better,” he said, and harumphed. “So much for Murphy’s Law.”
“Call me an outlaw,” said Declan.
“Man, people are weird.”
And that was the start of a beautiful friendship.
(To Be Continued…)