Shawn Steen

Shawn Steen Pic
Shawn Steen is an insomniac who discovered lucid dreaming as a way to calm his overactive mind. In doing so, he realized he was writing stories in his sleep. Now semi-retired he has the time to share them.
Award Category Finalist
Award Submission Title
The Bullies
This despairingly humorous story follows Lester Manning and his crew of bullied misfits, who enact psychological revenge plots on their tormentors.
My Submission
Chapter One
Lester had killed no one yet, but the possibility haunted him. That was always a danger of hunting bullies, the fear of exhilaration leading to escalation. The hardest part was waiting for his prey. He sat impatiently like a hunter sitting in a blind, biding his time.
‘The Fly Trap Sports Bar’ boiled with excitement, packed with jocks, frat boys looking for women to hit on, and the after-work crowd looking for a place to socialize that provided distractions and conversation starters. The rambunctious cacophony of the multiple games and devout fans buzzed in the background like angry bees. To Lester, this was a persistent tension of his own making. He didn’t drink much and had no interest in sports. Yet here he sat nursing a warm beer, studying the crowd.
Most of the action was across the room at the bar where the main game aired on the biggest television. Here the jocks who were here to watch the game gathered, discussed, and yelled at the screen. A group of five men caught Lester’s eye. They all wore Bears jerseys and seemed to be the most vocal.
Their leader was a monstrous man that Lester dubbed Three by Seven since he appeared to be about three feet wide by seven feet tall. He slammed his fist on the bar when he objected to a call. His cohorts bumped chests when their team scored, all except Three by Seven who was too tall for the ritual. Another candidate was a weaselly looking man, who appeared to be the second in command. He wasn’t big but seemed to carry around a wave of lingering anger. He had what Lester referred to as ‘Resting Bully Face’.
Lester knew he could handle an altercation with the weasel, but Three by Seven was too much for him to take on alone. He had no backup if they ganged up on him either. In his mind, he rehearsed the conflict. He could hit weasel in the throat, Three by Seven in the groin, and hoped the rest would back down., tNo, too risky, he thought. De-escalation was his only recourse.
A fresh group of people entered the bar. They wore work attire and Lester could tell from the way they paused t edoorwgatd lodoked around that their first time. One woman directed her party to a free table and one man to get drinks at the bar. He was Indian, frail, short, and had a boyish face. Lester noticed his outfit, a pink shirt with a shiny pale blue silk tie. He may have thought he was being fashionable, but with delicate features and gentle demeanor, he just appeared effeminate. When he saw the crowd, Pink Shirt looked frightened at the prospect of ordering drinks for his three coworkers by himself.
Pink Shirt walked up to the crowded bar but couldn’t‘ find an openi’ng. He tried to squeeze in behind Three by Seven. In the game, there was a fumble. Three by Seven yelled, threw up his arms, and bumped into Pink Shirt. He spun and yelled, “Hey, watch it!” the frail man froze in fear and stared wide-eyed. “You creeping up on me, faggot?” the giant shouted, bending down, so they were face to face. “Ah… ah,” Pink shirt stammered, unable to respond. “Ah, Ah,” Three by Seven mimicked.
His friends smiling and laughing gathered behind him to watch. He then grabbed him by his tie and said, “You know what we do with faggots around here?” Sweat stains now visible on his pink shirt, he became motionless, unable to speak or move. “We lynch them!” he said, grabbing his tie and lifting over his head like a noose. The man in the pink shirt dangled like a rag doll, balancing on his toes, gasping for air. His nearby work colleagues abandoned him, reverting their gaze to the floor and covered their faces to hide from the unfolding scene.
Lester leaped to his feet. “Let him go,” he said forcefully, but no one even acknowledged him. Lester chugged his remaining beer and threw the glass by the feet of the bully. It made a loud pop that made everyone jump.
“Let him go!” Lester repeated.
The entire bar stared at him in blank, disdainful incomprehension. He was a weak-looking man himself, other than a serious, stern expression. Only the murmur of the sports commentators overlapping in the background cut the silence.
The group burst out in laughter when they saw Lester. Three by Seven looked furious. He let go of Pink Shirt’s tie and headed toward Lester, glass crunching under his feet. Pink shirt dropped to his knees, gasped and hurried to loosen his tie.
Lester took one step forward toward him to show he had no fear. Fear feeds bullies, Lester thought.
“You have a death wish, little man!” The bully yelled, getting right in Lester’s face.
Lester started walking in a circle around Three by Seven as if he was a wolf looking for a weak spot to attack. The bully wasn’t having it though, and he started toward Lester with his fists clenched.
Lester held up his hand and said, “Let me ask you something.”
Three by Seven stopped dead in his tracks. It disoriented him. Now curious, he leaned down to look at Lester eye to eye.
“When you look into my eyes, do you see any fear?” Lester asked. The giant became even more confused. He scanned Lester’s face and noticed he had two different colored pupils. His appearance went from wimpy to eerie. The giant found himself at a loss for words and stammered as Pink Shirt did earlier. “Ah… ah,” he said. Lester could have mocked him and got a laugh too but repeated his question, this time spacing out each word.
“Do you see fear?”
Stuck in Lester’s gaze, he replied softly, “No.”
Lester let the silence hang for a moment and whispered, “Then you should ask yourself, why is this obviously smaller man not intimidated by me? Perhaps it would be best not to start something with an unsure outcome. Getting your ass kicked by me in front of all these people would be embarrassing. Your best course of action is to pretend you were just joking around and go back to watching your little game.” Three by Seven looked out of the corner of his eye and saw all his friends staring at him, waiting for a fight. He turned back to the frail man and said smiling, “I’m just messing with you guys. You’re OK, right?” Pink Shirt nodded and breathed a sigh of relief. The bully walked back to the bar to his bewildered friends.
Pink Shirt hurried over to Lester. “Thank you. That was incredible,” he said.
“No problem,” Lester replied.
“How did you do that? What did you say to him?” he asked, lowering his voice and scanning the room for eavesdroppers.
“You don’t attack a Cobra; you hypnotize it into submission. The dumber they are, the easier to get into their head,” he replied.
“Ah, okay.” Pink Shirt was unsure what to make of this weird little man with such enormous confidence.
“Well, I don’t know how I could ever repay you,” he said.
“Oh, please. Our kind have to stick together,” Lester said.
Our kind? Pink Shirt thought.
“I’m Les,” he said, extending his hand.
“Raj,” he said.
After shaking his hand, Raj realized Lester put a card in his palm. “You should come to our meeting tomorrow night here at six. I think we can help you.” Lester said walking away and giving a wave to the bartender. The card read, ‘Bullied?’ with a phone number.

Chapter Two
A Lesser Man
Lester was content as he walked home. A confrontation, plus a fresh recruit, was more than he hoped for. He walked along the tree-lined sidewalk, which hid the dilapidated buildings. It was an inexpensive way to revitalize a decaying neighborhood. People called this street, ‘Up and coming.’ for as long as Lester could remember. This was his neighborhood since he was a kid growing up in the late seventies. As he came upon his old high school, he stopped and shuttered, remembering his days here.
He walked on as young Lester walked into the school, for some a place of fond memories, for Lester a place of constant torment. Young Lester always navigated the hallways, careful not to bump into anyone, and avoided making eye contact.
He thought, “If I can just make it to my locker,”
“If I can just make it to my next class,”
“If I can just make it to the bathroom,”
“If I can just make it through gym class,” his daily mantras.
“Lesser Man!” A voice called from behind him. It made him jump and tremble. He knew that voice. Lester closed his eyes and froze, hoping he would go away. Suddenly, he felt a hand on his back as someone pushed him into the door, his face pressed hard against the sharp vents of the locker door. “I’m talking to you, dweeb,” said Lenny. “Oh, hey Lenny, didn’t hear you. What’s up?” Lester asked, trying to be friendly. “Not your books!” he said as he slapped them out of Lester’s hands and on to the floor. “Ah, that’s a good one, Lenny,” Lester said. Lenny kicked one book down the hall as he walked away. Lester scrambled all over the hallway, trying to gather his books and papers that people were stepping on and kicking. A passerby stepped over him.
“Loser,” said one.
“Dork,” added another.
In the lunchroom, Lester used a napkin to wipe off a footprint from his homework when Lenny came from behind and grabbed it. “What’s this? ‘The Great Fire of London’” reading the title out loud. “I got a great fire for you, Lesser!” he said as he pulled a lighter from his pocket, lit the bottom corner, and let it go. Lester made a quick grab for the drifting ignited paper. He patted out the flame, but not before it took a quarter of the page. Lenny and his buddies laughed and walked away before any teachers saw. Lenny learned not to linger after his attacks. That’s how you get caught. Instead, he knew to abuse, laugh, and leave.
“It would be OK. It only burned a few words. Maybe the teacher would view it as intentional artwork. It was a paper about a fire,” he thought. The sound of the bell made him jump out of his seat. He sighed, seeing his tray still full of food. Everyday Lenny would come by his table and stick his finger in Lester’s dessert and ask “You going to eat this?” helping himself. The one time he didn’t touch his lunch, he had no time to eat it. He left his lunch to get to class, but a teacher stopped him before he reached the door. “Hold it, Mister. You need to bus your table. This isn’t a restaurant,” a teacher said. Lester hurried back to grab his tray.
He rushed as quickly as he could, but just before he entered the classroom, the bell rang.
“Sorry Mr. Green,” he said, rushing toward his desk, dropping papers, and gathering them up again. “That’s detention, Lester,” Mr. Green said without even looking up. He sighed and took a seat. “Pass your homework assignments forward,” he said. Lester buried his paper in the pile, working its way to the front. He hoped he would wait to read them at home, but the teacher started skimming through the pile as soon as he got them.
“Lester, what is this?” he inquired while holding up his burned paper. The room erupted with laughter. Most of the kids in his class witnessed the incident at lunch and were waiting for it to come to light.
“It was an accident, sir,” said Lester.
“You were an accident,” Lenny said from across the room. The class broke out in laughter. “That’s enough, settle down,” said the teacher, trying to gain control of the room.
“Lester, who did this?” Mr. Green asked, knowing the answer. He knew all the bullies and their victims.
“Lester?” he asked in a patronizing tone. Lester looked over at Lenny, who was shaking his head no as a warning. The teacher saw this interaction, though.
“Lenny, we will see you after school.”
“What did I do?” Lenny asked. The teacher held up the scorched paper and smirked.
Swapping books for his next class, he suddenly found himself inside his locker. Someone pushed him in and slammed the door shut. “Snitch!” Lenny said from outside the door. Bullies stuffed him in his locker before, but never face first. He couldn’t turn around to open the latch as before. It immobilized him. He shouted, “Help! Please! I’m stuck!” The door swung open, and he felt a tug on his shirt as they pulled him free from his confines. It was Q-Tip or Q as Lester called him, another bullied student at the school.
They called him Q-Tip because he was tall, pale, and thin with high blonde curly hair. The rumor was that he was an Albino. Lester thanked Q, but he didn’t stay long enough to acknowledge it. When someone is being bullied, you risk being a target if you get involved. Lester understood and didn’t take offense to Q’s rapid departure. He would thank him later.
Lester looked at his schsule. It was a perplexing, ever-changing system of letter days where the classes rotated. He wasn’t sure if they designed it to keep the student’s brains active or just to torture them. He often found himself in the wrong class, mixing up the days. When your mind is always on getting bullied, it’s hard to stay focused on anything else. You are scanning your surroundings like a frightened cat. He looked for where to go next. “Shit,” Lester said. There it was in bold letters, appearing as a warning label. Gym class is a wimp’s worst part of the day. It was forty-five minutes where the jock teacher let his athletic students torture anyone that wasn’t good at sports. It was always a laugh-fest at Lester’s expense.
He waited by the gym doors. By going in late to change, he could avoid most of the boys exiting. As they began rushing out, he went in. Lester came out of the locker room unscathed. He held up his baggy shorts. His heartbeat sped up as he heard the sounds of sneakers squeaking on the hardwood floor and dribbling basketballs.
“Balls,” he said aloud. “Did it have to be balls?” he asked himself.
A kid dribbled by, paused, looked at Lester, laughed, and shook his head as he passed. It was a reminder of how goofy he looked in his shorts and t-shirt that were too wide and long for his scrawny body. The smallest size uniforms they had still looked massive on him. Because of economic problems in the Manning household, his mother made him wear sneakers that were too big for him. The hand-me-downs from his cousin made it hard for him to walk, let alone run. “If I can just get through gym class,” he thought. Lester took a deep breath and tried to work up the courage to endure the scariest part of his day.
To make things worse, he also shared this class with Lenny. “Hey Lesser, catch!” He turned as a basketball hit him straight on the nose. His eyes watered, and his face swelled as if a giant bee had stung him. He hated it when they played anything using a ball. Lenny did this to him whenever he had the chance.
“Lester, you’re bleeding. Go clean up. I don’t want blood on my gym floor!” said the Coach. “I mean it, Lester, if you get blood on my floor you’ll be here after school mopping it up!” the Coach warned again. Lester hurried into the locker room, holding his nose to keep the blood from dripping. The entire class was laughing behind him. Soaking some paper towels in the sink, he looked in the bathroom mirror. His vision was still blurry, but he could make out that his nose had become red and swollen. He dabbed the blood away, being cautious not to irritate it any further. Lester pulled up his shorts that were always sliding down. Being a skinny kid with long legs, his mother had trouble finding pants that were small enough in the waist and long enough. He wore what back then were known as “floods”, pants not long enough to reach his shoes. More than once Lenny had pulled his shorts down in class. He often walked around the gym holding the waistband.
Lester cleaned up fast. If he stayed too long, he would get detention. Lenny played football and could get away with anything in gym class. Lester remembered about all the times Lenny shouted, “Lesser catch!” and threw something at his head. He saw flashes of wads of paper, books, baseballs, footballs, dodge balls, volleyballs, even a shuttlecock.
“Lesser catch!”,
“Lesser think fast!”,
“Lesser heads up!”
They ran through his mind, one after another, a montage of agony embedded in his brain. He could not avoid it because the warning came after Lenny’s throw, not giving him not enough time to react.
Lenny called him ‘Lesser’, a clever nickname since his last name was Manning, ‘Lesser Man’ It didn’t bother him because it sounded as if Lenny had a lisp and couldn’t say his name. Secretly, it amused him. It made him sound silly every time he used it.
He finished gym class without too much more damage or embarrassment. When he got home, he tried to hide his face from his mother, but holding his hand over his face just made it more obvious.
“What happened, Lester?” she said, covering her mouth in shock.
“Gym class. It’s no big deal,” he said, trying to turn away from her view. “Did you get hit with a ball again? Lester, you need to keep your hands up. This is the third time you missed a catch.” “More like twenty times, but who’s counting,” he thought. His mother made a cold compress for his face. She dabbed the blood on his nose.
“Ow, Mom, stop. I’m fine.” he objected, pulling away.
“OK, get two black eyes then,” she said, placing the towel in his hands. She returned to scurrying about the kitchen; opening cabinets, looking for something.
“I hate to ask Lester, but can you get me a bag of rice at the store?” his mother asked, extending a five-dollar bill. “Ah man, I just got home,” he whined. “Lester, please, I need it to make your dinner.” He begrudgingly took the money. The store was only a couple blocks, but he had to get past you know whose house.
“If I can just make it to the store,” he thought.
Lester got to Lenny’s block and looked around the corner. He darted across the street and then peeked over the hedge in front of Lenny’s house. Lenny was nowhere in sight. He walked by as fast as he could without running. Even with all his caution, as soon as he got the rice and came out of the store, Lenny and his two buddies were in front, waiting for him. Lenny hung out with two constant companions. Mike and A.J. were two steroid taking bodybuilders, who followed Lenny around. They were his audience. Both were on the football team with Lenny.
The three jocks blocked Lester’s path. “Just the Lesser Man I was looking for!” Lenny said, grabbing Lester by his shirt and pushing him around to the side of the store.
“See this Lesser?” Lenny said, pointing to what appeared to be fresh dog crap on the ground. “Lenny please,” Lester begged.
“I’ll make you a deal, Lesser. I’ll leave you alone for the entire day tomorrow if you eat that dog shit.” As he pushed Lester’s face down to the ground. “Eat it!” he said, pushing him further.
“Lenny, please don’t-” he begged, but before he finished Lenny had shoved it into his mouth. Lester spat it out as the boys laughed. He realized it wasn’t dog crap. He tasted chocolate. He looked up to see Lenny smiling and tapping his temple with his finger.
“It was all in your mind the whole time.” Lester picked up the bag of rice that he dropped during the ordeal and ran away, wiping his mouth and spitting. Their laughter followed him. “It was all in your mind, Lesser!” Lenny shouted after him. At first, Lester was thankful it was only a candy bar. Yet the image of Lenny tapping the side of his head and saying ‘It was all in your mind’ haunted him, more than the physical attack because he got inside his head. Does this mean that he will leave him alone for the entire day tomorrow? Do bullies have any honor?


authorshaunnar Sun, 30/08/2020 - 22:50

Congratulations on making it as a finalist! Best wishes!

(Fascinating bio. I'm intrigued on your start to writing... the dream aspect reminds me of Stephen Kings, The Tommyknockers.)

Mary D Mon, 31/08/2020 - 12:56

Congratulations on your success Shawn -:)