“---What the hell?”
Zach’s head shot up like a hunted antelope at the sound of Sydney’s wailing drawl. Gentry just tensed uncomfortably, but kept his expression even as he pushed the posters back into Zach’s limp hands. Sydney trudged over to the wall then stopped dead in his tracks.
Thirty seconds seemed like thirty minutes as he gawked at the rainbow wall, eyes wide and mouth gaping.
“Holy shit.” he choked out in disgust, “did Zach do that?”
“Yeah,” Zach looked him dead in the eye, “I did, got a problem with it?”
He could feel the sweat of his palms grow sticky and moist against his arms, which were crossed defensively. The sick, heavy feeling in his gut swished back and forth like a pendulum, and his heart thumped in his chest. He already knew from this nauseous feeling where this was headed, and buckled himself down for the ride.
“Faggot!” Sydney choked out, “You’re a fucking faggot!”
There it was. The first shot was fired. Just as he’d expected.
Zach opened his mouth but Gentry had the first word,
“Come on, Sydney, let’s go.”
“No…” Sydney snarled, “I’m not going anywhere. The faggot should.”
“If I’m a faggot you’re a homophobe, and that’s worse!”
The response was a swift shove backward.
“Didn’t get a taste the first time? Hey faggot, you like golden showers?”
Zach stumbled backwards but caught himself against the wall. He trembled with anger as he moved back in front of Sydney’s view, “Why don’t you take out your dick and piss on me here, big guy? Yeah, come on, show it to everyone!”
Gentry pulled Sydney back by his arm, “Come on.”
Sydney shoved him away, “Hell no. I’m not gonna be on a swim team with a known faggot. Are you a faggot? Why are you defending him?”
“I’m not defending him. He can defend himself.” Gentry breathed, “If at all I’m defending the team from both of your stupidity.”
Sydney leered at him apprehensively.
“What were you doing talking to him? Why were you, huh?”
“Because he doesn’t believe in freedom of speech,” Zach grumbled, which earned him a ‘shut up’ glare from Gentry.
“Why I was talking to him is none of your business.”
“Are you a faggot, Gentry? ARE YOU A FAGGOT!”
“Then why are you letting one on the team!”
“He’s one of the best swimmers.”
“Fuck you, that’s gay! He’s fucking up our team, and you don’t care. You know what’ll happen when people see these posters? They’ll think I’m gay too--- they’ll think every fucking guy on the team is gay because we’re trotting around the locker room in speedos with a faggot staring at us!”
“Fuck you!” Zach screamed, “You don’t have anything worth staring at!”
“Shut up Faggot!” Sydney growled, moving to shove Zach back only to be punched in the face.
He fell back in shock, the metallic taste of blood in his mouth.
“Call me faggot one more time and you lose a tooth.”
Sydney slowly climbed back on his feet, feeling his jaw in shock. The shock quickly wore off and rage bubbled up inside him. Zach just watched him gamely. His heart was racing with the knowledge that he’d just shoved down the brawniest guy on the team, and that anything could happen now. And yet, instead of fear he felt a fire surge through his veins, one that burned up all self-preservation at the sight of Sydney’s bloody lower lip.
Oh, he looked mad all right. Good!
Sydney’s pupils were now very tiny, and his breaths were slow and deep. The blood trickled down his chin, past his quivering lower lip. Fuck you, faggot!
Without another thought, he lunged forward.
He’d kill that fag. Send him to hell early, pound that ratty body of his into the cement. But instead of the satisfying slap of skin against skin he only hit air, stopping abruptly when he stiffly registered something pulling him back.
--- the fuck!
“Stop,” Gentry ordered, clutching onto the hood of Sydney’s sweatshirt, “Come on.”
“Fuck you man!” he shrieked, ripped a poster off the wall and crumpling it before throwing it at Zach. By this time, Zach’s common sense had returned--- and he knew better than to get into a physical fight with a guy three heads taller than him. As he felt the cold wind lap at his flushed face, he breathed a sigh and looked towards Gentry who in turn stared back at him.
What should he say?