Angry Max

This is a work of fiction. A short story of just over 900 words.

Max was always angry. As long as he could remember, things had made him angry. Most things in fact.

As a schoolboy, Max could find much to drive him to anger. Not being selected for the football team, for one. Cyrus getting better grades in History, for another. Max had shown them though. He had burned down the bleachers so they had nowhere to sit and watch the team. Then he had beat the hell out of Cyrus, just because he could. Let him enjoy his grades with a broken nose and loose teeth, Max had chuckled to himself, as he walked home.

His parents looked suitably contrite during the meeting with the principal. They could do nothing with him. He was a difficult child, impossible to control. If the school couldn’t manage him, how could they hope to? Mrs Delancey was having none of it. Max was no longer welcome at her school, and that was that. He would have to transfer to the school in Duluth, and just have to put up with the extra travelling.

That made Max angry. Why should he have to get a bus all that way, and rely on his parents to run him back and forth from the bus station? At least the police had never worked out who torched the bleachers, and although he got a lecture about fighting with Cyrus, nothing else had happened.

As a new boy at the school, Max was teased. He was bigger than many of the others, so that marked him out for nicknames like ‘Hulk’, and Troll’. But he had to tread carefully. This was a tough school, and some of the other boys had to be watched. Not like his small town, where everybody was afraid of his temper. It seemed that everyone had a temper here. In some ways, that suited Max, as he eventually fitted in.

Very soon he was skipping class; hanging out with some tough kids, taking lunch money from younger children, and even helping them steal stuff from shops in the city. Eventually, they ran out of luck, and he was caught by some cops, along with the rest of the gang. They took him to the Juvenile Department, and his shocked parents were summoned. They whined and wailed, but the police went ahead and charged him anyway. He got supervision classes, but he didn’t go. The woman he had to see just made him angry.

By the time he was seventeen, Max was angrier than ever. Stupid girls made him angry when they refused him a date. His parents made him angry when they wouldn’t get him a car. All those missed classes had caused him to flunk school, and according to anyone who was asked, he had no future. They made him very angry. What did they know? He managed to find work in town, in the supermarket. Young people remembered him from school, and kept clear of the angry big guy. The manager seemed to like him though. He could haul boxes, stack shelves, do pretty much anything he was asked to. He never worked on the checkout though, which was just as well. Those customers could sure make him angry.

He got used to his job, and felt relaxed in the big stockroom. After a year, everyone was used to him, and even Mrs Delancey nodded to him when she came in for groceries. Then the manager dropped the bombshell. The company was closing down the store. It just wasn’t profitable, so they said. Shoppers would just have to drive across to the big hypermarket near the Interstate instead. They all lost their jobs, and that made Max very angry indeed. After the last day, he went back at night and fired the place, razed it to the ground. If anyone was thinking of buying it, they would just get ashes, he saw to that.

After drifting around for a while that summer, Max was feeling lost. He was angry too. Angry and lost.

He took the bus into Duluth. Maybe he could find a job there? He could move out of home, get away from his moaning parents, make a fresh start. He wandered around the places he knew in the city, asking in shops and small businesses if they needed help. He had a reference now, and could give the name of his supermarket manager. But there was nothing going, nobody would even come out from the back and talk to him. He was beginning to feel very angry again, so decided to go to Miller Hill Mall for some ice cream. Wandering around after his two scoops, he spotted the Army Recruiting Station. Max thought he would go in and ask about joining up. What did he have to lose, after all?

Max checked his weapon. The sergeant shouted “Lock and Load! Let’s do this!”, and they jumped from the truck. Somewhere in the compound ahead, they might well come across some Taliban, and Max was ready.

Max had not enjoyed the basic training. It had made him angry. To be shouted at, ridiculed, and given field punishment was guaranteed to get his dander up. But he stuck it out, and it started to feel normal. The sergeant was angry too, and so were many of the other guys in his detachment. He was actually encouraged to be angry, to be fierce, to be aggressive, even to fight.

They told him to take point, and he walked ahead of the platoon. He had no idea what was waiting for them in the village up ahead, but he wasn’t scared. He wasn’t angry anymore either.

He was home.

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