Re: [Seniormemoirs] February Reading - Telling
It's In The Can
by Clifford N. Bohnson
For whatever reason, we seemed to be constantly on the move when I was a child. I attended at least five different elementary schools and three different high schools. Often, the moves were reasonably trivial—from the standpoint of my parents, since they were frequently just a short way from where we had lived before. But to a small child, it might as well have been across the continent. New kids; sometimes a new school—it was nearly impossible to make friends. I remember one particularly difficult day, when the move was accomplished while I was in school. I left one house in the morning, and had to return to a new one in the afternoon—and I didn't even know what the new one looked like! I was seven at the time.
When I was in seventh grade at P.S. 80, I met my nemesis, Judson. Judson was also in the seventh grade. I was eleven, but Judson—due to the short-sightedness of the school administration in deciding that a student shouldn't be promoted until he had passed his grade—Judson was fourteen.
Another boy and I were appointed the school movie monitors. This basically meant we didn't even attend class (I suspect we were appointed because we were the brightest bulbs at the school, not for our technical abilities) — we simply spent our time showing movies for whatever teachers required our services, splicing the frequently-breaking films, or repairing the equally-frequently-breaking projectors. Our base of operations was an otherwise-unused classroom. Somehow, Judson discovered this, and terrorized us there, demanding lunch money. Eventually he expanded into terrorizing me after school. Each day he would wait for me, and, in front of a crowd of jeering classmates, dump me unceremoniously into a garbage can, where I would stay sniffling as surreptitiously as possible, until Judson and his buddies had left.
Then I would have to walk home, clean myself up as quickly as possible, and rush off to catch the bus to get to the boychoir rehearsal at my church.
Now, the one unbreakable code of boyhood was that you didn't tell. Telling was squealing, and that was as unthinkable as could be. Besides, school life was a completely separate life from your after-school life, or your home life—all safely compartmentalized—and one simply did not allow any leakage between compartments.
One day, however, something snapped, and I learned something about myself—and about life. There is nothing as dangerous as a devout coward, once aroused.
Yes, I admit it: I was a devout coward. Nothing could convince me to fight back—or so I thought—until one fateful day, when something snapped. I crept out of school, trying to avoid Judson, but there he was, sneering as he lounged over to me, picked me up, and dumped me in that smelly garbage can.
And then it happened: somehow, without conscious thought, some primitive passion arose in me. I struggled out of the disgusting can, screaming epithets and curses in German (I'm not even sure where I learned some of those words!). I attacked a stunned Judson—kicking, biting, scratching, punching. Somehow I knew that he could kill me, and I no longer cared. I would die fighting.
I didn't fight a clean fight—it was down-and-dirty street fighting. I beat the tar out of that rotten bully. Judson's “friends” seemed to have changed their minds: the kids surrounding us were cheering me on.
I left Judson lying on the ground, bleeding, gasping — and considerably chastened. I never had another day of torment from him—or anyone else in that school (although I did continue to worry about reprisals until the day I graduated)!