“We shouldn’t talk about him. It’s gossip and it’s rude. Remember what Father Francis said in his homily last Sunday,” Jim reminded his friends.
“Look at him. He’s such a slob! Does he think that singing will get people to like him,” Allison replied.
Jim watched as the new student avoided sitting at an occupied table in the crowded lunchroom. “He’s always clean and neat. No, he doesn’t dress like us, but he’s smart and he can sing,” Jim defended.
Allison glared as she abruptly stood up. Her two friends followed her as she stormed away from the table.
“What’s with her?” Jerry asked in bewilderment.
“Don’t know exactly. But, it may be that Allison is ashamed to admit that she’s related to the new kid, Bobby,” Jim replied in a whisper.
The others at the table gasped. Jim shrugged his shoulders as he munched a raw carrot. He pondered as he watched the new kid sitting by himself as other tables filled up around him.
“I’m going to talk to him,” Jim declared. His friends were stunned as Jim quickly stood up, retrieved his tray, and then walked decisively toward Bobby. Allison cut Jim off midway. “What are you doing?” she inquired. Allison set her jaw and her nostrils flared.
“I’m going to sit with Bobby, and encourage him to join the church folk group,” Jim said distinctly.
Allison frowned pronouncedly. “You…,” is all Allison got out as Jim adeptly stepped around her. She was visibly flabbergasted. Jim walked decisively to the table where Bobby sat.
Jim deftly slid his tray opposite the new kid, and then sat down. Jim smiled.
“I’ll move. I didn’t know this is where you sat,” Bobby blurted out. The young man visibly shook.
“No, Bobby. You’re okay. I thought I’d sit with you,” Jim said. Bobby was shocked. The overweight young man quickly glanced around him…expecting the star athlete’s friends to accost him or play some cruel practical joke.
“I heard you singing at church. You have a great voice,” Jim complimented sincerely.
Bobby shook his head as if to wake from a dream. “Thanks,” Bobby replied after several seconds.
“Have you ever sung in a group?” Jim asked. Bobby blinked and thought. “No. But, grandma thought I’d be good for me to get involved with the church choir,” Bobby replied softly. “Mrs. Jenkins is a real nice lady,” Jim commented. Bobby nodded slowly. “Grandma was the only one who’d have me,” Bobby said very softly.
Jim began to eat his lunch. Bobby ate quietly and slowly. Jim noticed very small portions on Bobby’s tray.
“Would you like my desert?” Jim asked as he offered bread pudding with white sauce that was a favorite at the school.
“No thanks. I’m on a diet,” Bobby said in a barely audible whisper. “Do you exercise, too?” Jim asked. Bobby looked around. Students at nearby tables continually looked at the two. “Everyone teases me in the gym, so I exercise to a video tape at my Grandma’s,” Bobby replied in a whisper.
“Come home with me after school. My father setup a gym in our basement for my uncle and me. My uncle is a cop. He has a difficult time maintaining his weight. He’ll be there about that time. I’ll bet he can show you exercises that will help tone your muscles,” Jim said. “Oh yeah…you have something else in common. My uncle also has a great voice. He’s always singing while he works out,” he added with a smile.
Bobby genuinely smiled.
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