Thomas liked doing puzzles and the other kids thought this was weird so they were little shits and made fun of him and called him names. Riddle me this, they said and Thomas told them riddles and puzzles were different, but they didn’t listen or didn’t care. A boy named Connor was kinda tough, so he took a marker from his backpack, one of those permanent markers that kids weren’t supposed to have in second grade, and drew big X’s all over Thomas’ book of puzzles. It was only one of those cheap puzzle books printed on recycled newspaper they sell at the grocery checkout, but Thomas got real mad and grabbed the marker and started scribbling all over the Connor’s polo shirt.
The polo cost a lot of money and Connor’s parents made Thomas’ parents pay for it. Thomas’ parents bought a few more puzzle books too, which was good because he didn’t have many friends the rest of the year. Sometimes one of the kids would act like he was friends with Thomas but they’d just want him to do their math homework or something. Or they’d been dared to go eat lunch with The Riddler. But a dare wasn’t enough to get a kid to sit with Thomas, so they’d be paid with Oreos.
When the carnival came to town Thomas didn’t want to go because he didn’t want his parents to hear the other kids call him The Riddler. But they made him, like, pulled him from his room and stuffed him in the car. They were starting to worry that he did too many puzzles and couldn’t have fun like a regular kid. He didn’t want to go on any rides and his parents didn’t want him to make a scene so they just walked around all night. His dad won a stuffed frog when he threw a dart at a balloon and the balloon popped and there was a piece of paper underneath that said stuffed frog.
Thomas hugged the frog while they looked at cotton candy being gathered on a paper tube. His parents stood in line and waited for the guy to make some more and Thomas wandered to another game. It was the one where you could shoot a little target with a BB gun. He didn’t look at the prizes or anything; he just wanted to play.
There was a little slot for coins to go in and Thomas put down the frog and found a few quarters in his pocket. He took a few practice shots and then turned to Connor who was playing the same game and hadn’t noticed Thomas. The gun didn’t work right when he tried to shoot him in the face, but Connor still flinched and pissed in his pants a little bit. A few people saw but no one said anything.
Thomas went back over to his parents who were still standing by the cotton candy. They were talking kinda quiet considering it was such a loud carnival, and they hadn’t noticed he’d been gone. He said he wanted to go on a few rides now.