The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick
One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.
Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.
Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.
Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.
This cover is cool in it's simplicity. Muted shades of what are mostly primary colours and a lone figure, half in shade, standing to the bottom left and looking to the distance. An ethereal cover that alludes to a deeper content.
I'm not sure what to make of the cape the boy is wearing, but from the book summary and the additional promotional materials supplied with the marketing collateral, I can only assume that there is a heroic aspect to the story, which based on the more tranquil elements of the cover should be a thought provoking read.
I mean, I’d known there was tension between Brandon and me, but at least five other guys, mainly the juniors, were involved in this afternoon’s, well, I’ll call it an “expression of dissatisfaction” with yours truly. It went something like this: My shots got blocked with more than a bit too much in-your-face attitude for tryouts. I got elbowed on almost every drive to the basket. I “accidentally” got tripped about six times. Nobody would pass to me, the team’s best shooter, until the coach started screaming about it. But I refused to let them intimidate me, as I recognized that basketball was a game of mental toughness, and although I was different now, that didn’t mean I was in any way weak. Before my change, I’d thought I was strong because I stood with the crowd, right or wrong, as there was safety in numbers. Now, I knew for a fact I was strong because I had the confidence that came from standing up for what was right.
I had no doubt that I would make the varsity basketball team, and, because of my height and shooting ability, I’d start at center, or power forward, as I had done sophomore year. I realized that Brandon would also start on varsity thanks to his size and natural athleticism. But the other guys had to be a little bit more careful about acting like total assholes in front of Coach Morris, because their spots were not quite so secure. And these guys included Jack Jackson, Kevin Broughton, and both the Mikes, O’Reilly and Delgado. All my former best buds, until—in their minds, at least—I went all Benedict Arnold on them and moved to the Social Justice League Table at lunch. And started treating people with the respect they deserved.
So, yeah, I was ready for it. After the coach said the teams would be posted on the school website that night, we all hit the showers, aka the place where all assholes thought men and boys could be separated. But usually, that was only because there was safety in numbers, and in the showers, whenever there was trouble, the big loudmouths were the ones the crowd usually stood behind.
Brandon was as big and loud as they come, but I was definitely not his usual opponent, seeing as I was usually one of the guys standing behind him. And the targets we chose were always in some way less than us. I realized that we picked on those who were less tall, less strong, less popular, and less socially adept. So when Brandon and Mike Delgado (big, yes, and definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed, not to be mean or anything) were the two who stepped forward—once I was bare-assed, of course—I wasn’t at all surprised.
“Where’s your pansy boyfriend?” Brandon, as could’ve been predicted, slung his bullshit at me first.
“Yeah, douche bag!” Delgado served as the echo.
Good one, Delgado. I stepped under the spray of water. “What do you guys want?”
“We just wanna have a nice little chat with you.”
“So, go ahead and chat. I don’t see anybody stopping you.” I closed my eyes to let the water flow over my face, but more importantly, to show these assholes that I wasn’t afraid of them.
When my eyes were shut, a few other guys came forward to close the circle around me.
“We wanna know what’s goin’ on in your head, Dennison. ’Cause to us, it looks kinda like you’re losin’ your fuckin’ marbles.” Brandon was so close I could feel the heat of his body beside me. In fact, I was sure he was getting backsplashed by the water that bounced off my chest.
I opened my eyes and leveled them on him. “I didn’t lose my mind. It’s actually just the opposite. I found it.” I proceeded to squirt some shampoo from the wall dispenser into my hand, and then washed and rinsed my hair right in front of my little audience.
Finally, Delgado pushed me against the wall. “Listen up, Dennison. You gotta get your head back in the game—with us—where it fuckin’ belongs.”
All of my “friends” stared at me as I struggled to break out of his grasp. “Get off me, Delgado!”
Brandon added his hands to my chest, beside Delgado’s. “We’re not lettin’ go ’til you tell us what we wanna hear. We want you back with us guys at lunch, and back with us in classes, ’cause that’s the only way we can be a real winning team… like we were before.”
Then Mike O’Reilly made his move. “I’m sick of seeing you and Gay Boy together all the time. It’s so fucked-up!” Before I had a chance to twist away, his fist snuck into the narrow alley between Brandon and Delgado and found my nose.
I didn’t even have time to turn around. “You’re gonna be the asshole who brings our whole team down, shit-for-brains!” Kevin Broughton was the next to take a swing. He got me square in my right eye.
That’s when both of the Mikes grabbed an arm and held me to the wall and Brandon let loose all of his frustrations on my gut. He kept saying, “Think about it! Think about this!” as he punched me. When he decided he’d made his point, he said, “Let him go.” And then my former best pal looked away, very careful not to meet my eyes.
“Not gonna look at me now, huh, Wilson?” I lifted my hand to my nose to check for blood. Finding red, I stepped back into the spray of water to rinse it off.
“Nothin’ much to look at. Except an asshole who’s gonna smarten up.”
“Yeah, and change his ways.” Delgado looked at Brandon for approval of his remark. He got it in the form of a quick nod.
I examined the pissed-off faces of the guys I’d played ball with since I’d moved here when I was eight years old. And I realized that I didn’t know them at all.
“See ya at lunch tomorrow, buddy.” Those were the final, and very sarcastic, words Brandon tossed at me, before he turned and left with his little army of bullies trailing behind him.
With my face directed up at the nozzle, I stood under the drizzle of warm water until I was calm enough to go back to the locker room, get dressed, and then head home. But it took me a while to chill out. I was actually shaking a bit, from fear or anger or… the simple knowledge that I had just been pushed around. As I dressed, the locker room was close to silent, and I could tell that the guys from the other grades were trying their hardest not to stare. Because they couldn’t believe what they’d seen: popular jock Bryan Dennison, high scorer in last year’s basketball season, even as a sophomore, had just gotten knocked against the wall, threatened, and beat on like he was nobody special.
Bryan Dennison had been forced to stand alone. He’d just been the targeted kid… the bullied one. And the rest of my teammates had all literally watched in silence as my face had gotten pummeled on, and then, they had figuratively been witnesses to my slide down to the very bottom of the social status totem pole.
But in a fucked-up way I was thankful. I’d taken a few steps in Scott’s shoes. I’d experienced a taste of what he’d lived through, probably on a regular basis, and what had molded him into the person he was. No, it hadn’t been fun, but it had been enlightening.
Enter to Win!
• (2) THE RED SHEET digital copy
• (2) THE RED SHEET Swag Bag
About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five non-pedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.
Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.
My themes I always write about:
Sweetness. Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes - only love can save them.
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