Cause and Effect
“Have you guys read the newspaper this week?” asked Liam’s very enthusiastic civics teacher. “According to some big names like The New York Times, ‘The continents of Earth appear to be steadily moving toward each other at a truly remarkable rate.’ “It says something about Boston being neighbors with Morocco, and…”
Liam stopped listening as he lost his interest. He was sitting in his Civics class, waiting until the bell rung so he could leave. It was only Monday, but Liam was already tired of school and everything about it. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about his education; he just didn’t see the point in learning about current events in school when CNN would just send him notifications on his iPhone whenever anything interesting happened. Besides, Liam thought, it wasn’t like his life he could be affected much by a few shifting continents!
Liam was in 7th grade, and was 12, almost 13. He was a boy of average height, and had startling blue eyes, with spiked dark brown hair to accompany it. He was an only child, and his parents both worked a lot. His dad was an English professor at Harvard University, while his mom was a surgeon at a nearby hospital called…. Liam was still trying to remember the name of the hospital when the bell suddenly rang and startled him out of his thoughts. Jumping up, Liam grabbed his books and started to run out the door along with a few others who were just as impatient as he was to get out of school. He heard his teacher yell something about an assignment due tomorrow but Liam didn’t worry about it. It was probably in his planner anyways, and he could always text a friend! Light streamed in from one of the many huge skylights in the school, momentarily blinding Liam as he made his way toward his locker. His locker was opposite the classroom that he had just exited, and was on the top row, completely identical to every other locker in the school with bright cherry red paint, a black master lock, and three air vents near the top. It took him two tries to unlock it. When he finally got it to open, Liam gathered up the books that he needed, mentally checking off each one as he put in into his backpack. His bag was noticeably heavier by the time he finished packing, and Liam almost fell backwards as he tried to join a group of kids from his grade who were congregating in a corner. One of the kids, Matthew, was talking about how his dad was a scientist and what his theories were for why the continents were moving. “My dad said that magnetic plates in the Earth were somehow triggered and were attracting the other continents. He said that it was just like two normal magnets with opposite poles,” said Matthew, “and he’s a very famous scientist so-”
Liam walked away with disgust, knowing that Matthew was just trying to get attention, and entertaining the possibility of the continents being a bigger deal than he had originally thought they were.
“Are you leaving?” asked Sarah, one of Liam’s friends.
“Yeah,” Liam replied without looking back, “see ya.”
Liam walked down the main hallway of the school until he reached a pair of huge double doors painted the same shade of red as his locker.. Liam knew from experience that they led outside. Body after body filed through the entryway, and student after student pushed the doors open as they passed through them, never giving the doors a chance to close. Normally it was a school rule that anyone entering or exiting the school used the door on the right, lowering the possibility of a head on collision. However, Liam bemused, it was a stupid rule because at times like this, when hundreds of kids were all trying to get out, the students ended up using both doors to exit anyways.
Liam finally made it through the cramped space and reached outside. He saw his bike leaning against the pole where he had locked it there that morning. Using the same code as his locker, Liam unlocked the bike, straddled it to get his footing on the pedals, and he rode toward the road. It was about five minutes before Liam reached his house, about a mile according to an app on Liam’s phone.
Built in a subdivision with only the thought of money involved, Liam’s house was a carbon copy of every other building in the neighborhood; it was big, white, and three stories tall. A paved white driveway lead up to a two-car garage, and a similarly white sidewalk branched off of that and led to the front door. Liam left his bike leaning against a wall in the garage and went into the house through one of the many doors. The first thing in sight when he walked in was a large kitchen. A storage area for coats, hats, gloves, shoes, and basically anything else stood off to the left while a bathroom was to the right. The stairs were just barely visible behind and to the right of the kitchen.
“I’m home,” Liam yelled out of habit, not particularly expecting an answer from anyone.
His nanny surprised him by favoring him with a quick, “Okay,” her Australian accent making the “ay” sound like an “i”.
Not wasting any more energy on words, Liam took off his shoes and cut through the kitchen, making his slow way up to his room. He finished his homework as fast as he could, and used his computer and phone until his parents got home. Once they did, a dinner of stir fry and rice was prepared by the nanny and eaten by the family in a quick, conversation-less meal. After a little time spent watching television and relaxing with his parents, Liam went back up to his room and went to sleep early, allowing his waking dreams to finally take control and lead him where they would, just as they had been trying to do the whole day.
Liam woke up tired and bleary eyed. Going to sleep early didn’t help one bit he thought as he made his way to the bathroom. It only took a quick shower and a bowl of cereal though before Liam felt much better and much more alert. He bid his parents goodbye and grabbed his bicycle, beginning his typical commute to school in his typical way. But Liam found that it wasn’t going to be the norm as soon as he stepped out of his house. The traffic was so bad that he couldn’t have missed it if he was blind. The sound, the smell...it was pure chaos. Cars honked continuously, gasoline smells filled the air, hundreds of people yelled and screamed.... By the time Liam reached his school parking lot, he had almost been hit four or five times, and more than fifteen minutes had passed. And his ordeal wasn’t over yet. His school’s parking lot was just as bad as the road, possibly even worse. All of the parking spaces were filled-normally almost none of the spaces were ever used-and for every vehicle that managed to get out, another two took its place.
With no space to ride, Liam was forced to get off his bike and walk it through the grass to reach the entrance to the school. After locking it to a nearby tree, Liam looked back at the chaotic traffic once more and walked inside. It showed no sign of letting up! Liam pushed aside the bright red double doors and entered the school...only to run headlong into a group of people.
“Sorry,” he muttered not even glancing at them as he was looked around the crowded hallway. Every nook and cranny was filled! The noise was absolutely deafening, a combination of dozens of languages and accents, like the sound from a college assembly. In a way it reminded Liam of the start of a football game, and all these people were here to get tickets. Liam attempted to jostle his way toward his locker as he continued to look around with confusion written plainly on his face. Suddenly Liam realized how many of these people were dark-skinned, and how many of them he had never seen before. His brow furrowed in confusion, his suspicions only heightened.
It took far longer than it should have for Liam to reach his locker but fortunately it opened it up for him on the first try, allowing him to deposit his backpack, books and binders there before he was crushed by any of the multitude of people.
Liam then checked his phone, a feat made difficult by the throng of people, and found that English, his first class, started in less than two minutes. Grabbing the materials he needed, Liam started off toward the room, squeezing through the huge crowd as he went.
“What’s your problem,” said a large boy with glasses when Liam accidently brushed past him. Frustrated and confused, Liam couldn’t think of a retort and instead kept his head down and kept moving forward. Again and again as he proceeded, Liam felt people looking at him, as if he was the one causing trouble! It wasn’t long before his frustration finally gave way to anger and Liam felt a tiny flame flare up inside him, like a candle being lit.
Liam entered the classroom just as the bell rang without warning to signal the start of class. People rushed in through the door, each hand creating new prints on the door window as they passed through. Liam had been somewhat early so he had managed to grab a seat but many of his former classmates were forced to stand as the empty seats were taken by some of the new kids.
“I know most of you are confused,” the English teacher started off with. “So I’ll try to clear up any questions that any of you have.” He then had each of the new kids introduce themselves and began his explanation. “As I’m sure most of you know, the continents have been rushing toward each other for the past few weeks.” He paused as kids nodded and furtively whispered to each other about it. “Well just this past night they finally connected and each of these new students that you see here is from another country that is now much closer to us. Our government decided to attempt to bridge the gap between us and the other countries that are now so close! The majority of these new students are from Morocco, as that is our new eastern neighbor, but many others emigrated from Spain and the Western Sahara, and from across Europe and Africa! I, along with the rest of the teachers here, expect you all to welcome each and everybody that’s new as they try to settle down here in Boston! They’ll be here for a while!” Then, as if he suddenly remembered that he a class to teach, he said, “Let us get started!”
Liam thought about what his teacher had said as the class continued on. It was a far-fetched idea, and yet it made some sense, and seemed to fit all of the clues…. When he couldn’t find a better alternative, Liam accepted the story and his puzzlement gradually turned into anger as he realized that these new kids from some other country had just came into his hometown and messed up his way of life for no good reason! Talking with others, Liam realized his friends felt the same as him!
Throughout the rest of the day, Liam just became more and more annoyed, and the antagonism between him and the new kids only increased. In French, Liam’s foreign language, kids from a French speaking part of Africa were fluent and made Liam and his other classmates feel stupid. Then in math, Liam and some of his other friends had to stand in the back of the room because they’re math teacher made them surrender their seats to some of the new students. But that wasn’t it. At lunch, the cafeteria made some sort of special meal to honor the new students. It was called Couscous, and was supposedly a normal meal in Morocco. Liam found it so completely disgusting that he sentenced himself to a very hungry rest of the day by throwing it out! In his first class after lunch, science, Liam didn’t actually have any interactions with the new kids but one of his classmates was laughed at and completely laughed at by a group of the new students because he made some gesture that was supposedly obscene in Africa. Liam didn’t even see the gesture but he saw the humiliation part of it and it scared him much more than he wanted to admit. Only in Civics, Liam’s last class of the day, did nothing bad happen. In gym, Liam failed miserably trying to play a game from Morocco called kick and catch, whereas the name suggests, kids catch, and then quickly kick a ball to one of their teammates and the first team to get a certain number of catches wins. Liam however, completely missed the ball when he tried to kick it, and ended up on his back with the ball under him and embarrassment on his face.
By the time the end of the day finally arrived, Liam was ready to get into a fight with somebody. Anybody. Somehow, during the course of one day, Liam had managed to get angry, hungry, embarrassed, crowded, and scared. And it was all because of the new kids! Even as Liam thought about it he felt his blood boil. He wanted revenge!
Liam slowly made his way through the main hallway not even trying to avoid people anymore. It was just as crowded as before but Liam had unconsciously gotten used to his lack of personal space somewhere during the course of his terrible, horrible day. Finally reaching the pair of double doors, Liam strode through them, marching straight to his bicycle. At some point during the day, the two-wheeler had fallen down and was now on the ground. In normal circumstances Liam wouldn’t have given it a second thought but in a day like this…it was merely another last straw.
Liam forcefully grabbed his bike off the ground and rode off the side of the sidewalk toward the other sidewalk on the other side of the street. His dark thoughts filling his head, Liam failed to look left or right and instead merely stared at the ground in front of him in defiance. A big white truck coming from the Liam’s right honked and tried to brake but the driver didn’t have enough space to stop completely. The truck was thirty yards away, and coming closer every second when Liam finally looked up in surprise, some sixth sense warning him. With less than fifteen feet between Liam and the truck, a girl sprinted toward Liam and pushed him off the road and onto the sidewalk on the other side of the street just as the vehicle flew by. Both Liam and the girl hit the sidewalk hard then rolled and ended up side by side on some grass. It was far from a gentle landing but Liam was pretty sure it was better than being hit by the truck. His bike had also managed to escape the crash, and looked no worse for wear as it lay on the pavement. Liam’s right knee and hands were scraped up and he had a huge bruise on his right elbow, but apart from those, he was fine, and had no life threatening injuries. Liam then examined his savior. She was dark-skinned and had long black hair that hung down to her lower back in a ponytail. She looked about his height but it was hard to tell as they were both lay on the ground. She was in about the same health state as Liam.
“Thank you so much,” Liam said with honest amazement. “You saved my life!”
“It’s no big deal,” she replied. Liam could hear the false bravado even with her African accent. “Anyone else would have done the same if they were as close as I was.”
“Yeah,” Liam said. “But you actually did! Can anyone else say that?”
She seemed to accept Liam’s thanks then, and seemed a bit embarrassed, her face flushing a light red as Liam offered her a hand up from the ground. She acted as if to push his hand away, but instead seemed to think better of it and grasped it. She started to walk away.
“Wait!” Liam said, and then paused as he realized that he didn’t know what to say next.
She waited a second then gave him a wry smile and said “Watch out on the way home!”
Liam took her advice and was extra careful on the way home even as dozens of thoughts whirled through his head. He reached his house, turned into his driveway and parked his bike in his garage. Liam went straight up to his room once he got inside and sat on his bed. He sat there and did nothing more important than think for a full half hour. When he still hadn’t come to a decision after that time, Liam realized that this could drive him crazy if he let it. So as he unpacked his backpack, Liam decided to let go of his anger towards the new kids, and open up his hometown; they were only trying to build their own home after all. He knew that his friends at school wouldn’t accept his decision as easily. How could they if Liam didn’t until after a near death experience?! Eventually though, with some luck, they would see what he saw!