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Atomic Fireball


The quiet boy in the back of the bus
has been handed something red
he doesn’t understand.

The bully who gave it to him
has never once been kind to him,
and so this gift, this smooth red ball,

is more than just a piece of candy:
it is an apology for every time
the bully whispered “You stink,”

every time he pinched his nose
and said, “Oink, oink, oink,”
every time he called him “Miss Piggy”

in the presence of Laura Bauman.
No longer is it the quiet boy’s fault
his father is a hog farmer.

“What are you waiting for?”
the bully says. “If you don’t want it
I’ll give it to somebody else.”

The others watch with their chins
resting on the backs of the seats
as the boy puts it in his mouth.

Before he can spit it out
his face is red and his eyes are
watering. Under their laughter

he hears the bully say,
“Now you know how we feel
when you raise your hand.”
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