For Trifecta Writing Challenge. The word is MASK: 3 : a protective covering for the face
b : gas mask
c : a device covering the mouth and nose to facilitate inhalation
d : a comparable device to prevent exhalation of infective material
e : a cosmetic preparation for the skin of the face that produces a tightening effect as it dries
Atticus wears his mask long after the burn has healed. He no longer needs it for protection from the elements: sun, dust, or an accidental brush with an unwashed hand. He wears it to keep the bullies away.
He didn’t know that would happen. He thought the mask would make it worse. Instead, to his great surprise, they look at him as a superhero. They all want a mask like his. They think of him as Magneto, and are in awe, and a little afraid of him.
Atticus thinks he resembles the Phantom of the Opera though he doesn’t say this to his classmates. They would surely belittle him all over again if they imagined him in a Broadway musical. He knows of the musical because his mother did not stop talking about it for weeks after she’d attended a performance.
His name, Atticus, has a certain allure. It seduces bullies. He doesn’t think he’ll ever forgive his parents for their stupidity. The bullies clamped their jaws to it like a cat to a mouse. No amount of story synopsis, or defensive babbling of award-winning literature eased their harassment.
Then the accident happened. With a cell phone in one hand his mother reached for the handle of a hot frying pan. But she neglected to first slip that hand into a potholder. Atticus was at the wrong place at the wrong time. His mother dropped the pan, but not before it lofted into the air splattering hot canola oil on one side of Atticus’ face.
Atticus sometimes thinks his mother’s guilt might be punishment enough for having named him Atticus.
Now his mother wants him to remove the mask. He can’t wear it forever, she tells him. Why not? Because I said so, she says.
But Atticus has other ideas. He has friends now. When he speaks of superheroes or literature the boys offer their rapt attention.
The pain was not so bad the first time. How bad could it be the second?