They were friends for years, BEST friends, but then Yams was a bad squirrel who stole, and ate birds for fun and Pozole didn't want to because of goodness in his tiny, squirrel heart.
It was the first day of middle school. Pozole's mother packed him a lunch of black walnuts deciduous tree bark. She gave him a dollar to buy a Sierra Mist with lunch. "Are you excited for big squirrel school?" she asked.
"Oh jeez, Mom! That's sooooo lame!!!"
"Mind your tone! No kit of mine speaks that way!"
"But MOM! I didn't even—"
Pozole hushed. He rubbed his hands on his Levi's Silvertab jeans and unbuttoned and re-buttoned the collar of his plaid shirt.
"You are so handsome! My little boy!!" she said, and kissed him on the cheek.
"Ew. Gross Mom!!!"
"I just wish your father were here to see the young squirrel you've become." Pozole's mother cried silent tears, the way she often did when she mentioned her late husband. He had been flattened by a group of teenagers in a Chevy Malibu. "Chop, chop! The school bus is outside!"
On the bus, Pozole was the only squirrel who didn't have his initials embroidered on his backpack.
"What is that? A fucking JANSPORT?" one of the eighth graders said. They erupted in laughter, and someone threw a pencil at Pozole's head. "This is Spermophilus Beldingi Middle School, not Ghetto Rock Squirrel Welfare Academy."
Pozole looked for an empty seat and saw one next to Yams.
"Don't sit next to me or they'll hate me too," Yams whispered.
"Come on, please?"
"FIND A SEAT!" the driver yelled. She had acne arms.
Pozole sat down next to Yams anyway. He rolled his eyes and moved as far away from him as the brown vinyl seat allowed.
"Sixth graders, sixth graders, little baby poop savers," the back of the bus chanted.
"That doesn't even make sense." Pozole yelled.
"How about I jump you at the flagpole? How about that?" One of the biggest squirrels asked.
"I wouldn't like that."
"Listen to this kid. He thinks he can tell me what to do!" the squirrel said. All of his squirrel friends laughed.
"You messed up," Yams said.
"I don't need it from you, too."
"You don't get it, do you? That's Hector Riguero, the baddest squirrel in Pershing county. I heard he ate a teacher on his first day of middle school and he didn't even get suspended because the Principal was too afraid of him. He takes karate and he knows German. You're dead, man. Dead."
"Gulp," Pozole said.
At school, Yams was in all of Pozole's classes, but refused to make eye contact with him. As Pozole walked down the hall, he heard a seventh girl say to her friend "I feel kind of bad for him 'cuz he's so lame, but at the same time, I hope Hector breaks his spine and that he has to eat through a straw forever or somethin'."
In the lunch line, no one spoke to Pozole. He didn't even care about the Sierra Mist that much. Plus everyone else had someone to talk to. They all had best friends from growing up or elementary school. All Pozole had was Yams, and Yams was nine squirrels in front of him in the lunch line, stealing Honeybuns.
"What the heck are you doing, Yams?!?! WHAT THE HECK!?!?!" Pozole yelled.
"Shut up, stupid."
"You're gonna get caught!"
"Don't talk to me."
A lunchlady grabbed Yams by his tail and dragged him out of the line, towards Mrs. Olivier, the Vice Principal.
"I HATE YOU!!" He yelled at Pozole. "I HATE YOU!!"
"Snitch, snitch, he's a bitch. Eats his own nuts in a ditch," the squirrels chanted at Pozole.
"HOW DOES EVERYBODY KNOW THESE RHYMES!?!?!"
Just then, Hector Riguero creeped up behind him and pulled down his Silvertabs. He never felt happier to be wearing new underpants.
"EEEWWWWWW" the girls yelled.
"I'll see you at the flagpole!!"
The rest of the afternoon, Pozole wondered why his life was so terrible. He didn't know what made him uncool. He used to be normal. He used to be just another squirrel. Now he was a loser. He was the biggest loser in school. Hector would pound him and everyone would laugh and the worst part would be having to go home with a broken face and torn up back-to-school clothes that he knew his mother could barely afford. She would see the kind of loser he was and feel guilt and pity and that would kill him.
As he was walking to the flag pole, he could hear the entire school chanting "Poz-ole, Poz-ole, got killed at the flag pole." He decided to curl into a tight ball and cover his head and groin.
"Look who decided to show up," Hector said.
"Just do it quick, okay?" Pozole asked. As soon as Hector stepped toward him, he curled into a ball. The punches and kicks fell all over him like hail in April. Everyone was booing him and calling him names.
"Get up and fight, you pussy," Hector said.
"That's enough!" someone yelled. "ENOUGH." Everything stopped, Pozole looked up to see who said it, and Hector kicked him hard in the face. Blood dripped out of his nose and mouth and all over his shirt. He started to cry.
"Nobody—and I mean...NO...BOD...Y...tells Hector Riguero what to do!!"
"If you hurt my friends, then you hurt my pride," Yams said. "I gotta be a squirrel, I can't let it slide."
Hector punched Yams in the face, but Yams seemed to get stronger. He punched him again, and Yams shook in a rage. Hector punch him one more time, and Yams caught his fist and kicked him hard in the face. Once Hector was on the ground, Yams jumped in the air and did a leg drop on his head.
"Come on, Pozole. Let's go home," Yams said. He helped his best friend up, and they walked through the semi circle to the place where the school buses would be waiting.
"I'm sorry I snitched," Pozole said.
"I'm sorry I was a jerk," Yams said.
"Middle school sucks," they both said simultaneously.
When they got to the place where their school bus should have been waiting, it wasn't there. It had run away, someone said, and they had to walk home.