The Bell Boy - by Steve 11/29/2008
Mrs. Lacey was a very nice school teacher, and all the parents loved how great she was with the kids. But one boy always seemed to test her patience: Phil Stappalik. The boy rarely talked but was always causing some kind of trouble. Whenever another kid started crying from the other side of the room, Phil was always right there trying to look innocent even as he lowered his fist he punched with or clung to the toy he just stole away.
The teacher knew the reason he didn't play nice was because his home life was pretty bad. Occasionally Phil would come to school with a bruise or two on his body. While they never had enough proof to convince the Kid Protect Agency that he was being beat by his parents, she had a strong feeling about it. It was the way they were always the first to drop off their kid and always the last to pick him up. It was the way they never came in to talk about how their kid was doing like all the other parents did. Because she knew, Mrs. Lacey was more forgiving of Phil, and did her best to try to give him a little extra attention in order to help him improve.
One day after the teacher rang the morning school bell and attendance was being called, Mrs. Lacey called Phil's name for the 3rd time with no response. In the absence of his response she realized the bell's ringing had not stopped. A quick trip down the hall confirmed her suspicion that the little trouble maker was there clinging to the rope jumping up and down to make it ring as loud as he could make it. As she stormed down the hall ready to paddle his behind and send him back to the classroom, she slowed her pace and came up with a different approach.
That day, Phil was on his best behavior Mrs. Lacey had ever seen. Sure, he didn't eat his vegetables at lunch, deliberately jumped in a mud puddle at recess, and blew a spitwad on the wall, but you could tell he was trying because he didn't punch, kick or steal from anyone, which was a major improvement! So, the teacher let those things slide and that night Phil got to ring the bell.
Over the next several weeks Phil's behavior got even better. The bell reward really seemed to be doing the trick! He was really beginning to grow on Mrs. Lacey as she saw a kinder, sweeter side of the boy emerge. The other kids were somewhat jealous of his bell ringing privilege, but Mrs. Lacey was quick to teach that sharing was an important part of being a good boy, and so Phil would give out turns to some of the other kids as well.
One morning Phil came in with another bruise on his left cheek, this one being the biggest yet. Mrs. Lacey knew it was a bad day at home, and she reported the problem to Kid Protect Agency again hoping this time would make a difference. For the first time in a month he was fighting and even uttering a few words far too adult for such a young kid. When reminded of his bell privilege he reluctantly stopped but soon after resumed his old ways. Mrs. Lacey had to revoke his special ability. That night as Mrs. Lacey rang the evening bell, she was saddened about how all her hard work to improve a child's life could so easily be thrown away by bad parenting. The bell seemed to ring with a sadder tone to her ears without the smiling face and giggles of Phil to accompany it, and seemed more burdensome to pull without his curiosity and eagerness.
The next day Phil's parents did not come to drop him off. Most likely the Agency was starting to take his bruises more seriously and when they talked to his parents it scared them off to a different school. She had seen this before, where parents evade punishment by just moving away or enrolling somewhere else where the cycle starts all over again. Unfortunately the children also evade the protection they need. As she suspected, Phil's parents did not come back again, probably whisking him away to the next state over taking away what little bit of stability he did have.
She had all but forgotten about him until the next season when it was time to clean the bell tower. Bats tend to like the enclosure and apparently making a mess up there too. It was probably the most unpleasant task a teacher had to do, and as she climbed the ladder she wondered why they didn't have a cleaning crew that could do it. It was also a bit dangerous with its poorly lit space so high up in the air and a tiny ledge barely big enough to hold a foot.
Trying to finish as quickly as possible, she wiped the bat poop from the bell top and from the ledge, careful to clean that off before stepping on it so as not to slip on the droppings. She wiped the bell's dangling clapper off and wondered how the bats managed to get their nasty poop on that. One especially disgusting side of the clapper made her lean in to more closely inspect just how dirty it was inside there and if they were going to have to take the bell down to have it cleaned.
Bending down quite awkwardly she lifted the bell finding the clapper to be the rotting face of Phillip Stappalik, his neck clenched by the rope ever more tightly by the daily ringing, almost to the point of separating from his body. She dropped the bell as she realized the bat poop on her hand was actually dried blood and crushed maggots. The bell wobbled with the hallowing gong of bones against metal and enough swing to push Mrs. Lacey back against the bell's removed clapper laying on the last bit of uncleaned ledge behind her, turning her awkward stance into a tumble. Another clang of the bell was followed by a crack of her shoulder breaking against the opposite ledge. Desperate attempts to grab the rope caused faster and more violent bangs of the bell leading to the collapse of the teacher's body on the floor below followed by the boy's headless corpse. The teachers and children who came in response to the bustle started screaming and crying in horror just as the boy's decaying head came crashing down, breaking into several pieces scattering across the floor...
No one knows how Phil got into the tower or why his parents never came looking for him, but no one can forget the terrifying scene that will forever haunt the minds of those in attendance that day.
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