It was June 11. The last day of fifth grade. Lincoln Loud woke in a bar of golden sunshine and smiled. He had been waiting for this day for six months.
Getting up, he stretched, went into the bathroom, and brushed his teeth. He was still smiling when he came out to find Lori waiting. "About time," he said, pushing past him.
"Love you too, sis," he said.
In his room, he dressed in a pair of jeans and an orange polo shirt. He took something from under his mattress and slipped it into his backpack. Downstairs, his sisters were gathered at the dining room table, slopping breakfast into the mouths. He went into the kitchen, grabbed an apple, and took a big bite. It was tart, juicy. He ate it to the core and threw it into the trashcan. He went back into the dining room, sat, and enjoyed his sisters' company. He was going to miss them.
When breakfast was over, the younger kids piled into the van with Lori while the older ones walked. Lincoln moved at an easy pace, his thumbs hooked through the straps of his backpack. He looked around at the glotious summer day. The sun was bright, the sky was blue, the trees were green. He inhaled deeply, the air redolent of flowers. Ah. He was going to miss this too.
"You excited for summer?" Luan asked, matching his stride, her books pressed to her chest.
"Yeah," Lincoln said, "I've been looking forward to today for a long time."
Luan nodded. The past school year had been hard on Lincoln. A lot of kids picked on him and sometimes he came home crying. His only friend in the world was Clyde McBride, who caught just as much hell as Lincoln himself did. Luan's heart went out to her little brother. She knew what it was like to be teased. For her, fourth and fifth grade was a living nightmare.
"Maybe we can do something later," she offered.
"Maybe," he said.
They parted at the corner of Main and State, Luan and the others going west to Royal Woods Middle, and Lincoln east to Royal Woods Elementary. "See ya, Linc!" Luan called, and Lincoln waved, a smile on his face.
For a time, Lincoln walked alone. At one point a gang of boys came up behind him, one yanking down his pants. "Nice panties, Loud!" one cried maliciously, the others laughing.
"Good one, guys!" Lincoln said earnestly, pulling up his pants.
Where did he all go wrong, he wondered as he walked. Fourth grade was fine, but fifth grade? Fifth grade was hell. It's like as soon as he transitioned grades, his world went to shit and everyone except Clyde (and his sisters) had it out for him. This is why he became clingier at home, going out of his way to help his sisters and make them happy: If they deserted him too, he would be entirely alone.
Of course, that was coming at some point. He could feel it.
Ten minutes before the first bell rang, Lincoln walked up to the front doors of Royal Woods Elementary. Clyde was sitting on the steps, his head down. Kids streamed inside, some of them looking down at him and talking shit. Clyde ignored them. When he looked up and saw Lincoln, he smiled, got up, and came over. "Hey, buddy," Clyde said, "you ready?"
"I sure am," Lincoln said, reaching into his backpack and bringing out the handgun. "You?
Clyde removed the Uzi from his own backpack and grinned. "Let's do this."
They went inside and started shooting.