I’m leaning back in the chair.  The bodies on the teleconference are shifting, their paper shuffling is booming on the mic. The update continues, I’m fading, drifting. I look up at the clock and it tugs me back, way back.

It’s hidden inside, in a dark space, deep in a corner on the edges, frayed but biting.

~ 1967

I was a child. You were a child. A Boy.

The schoolhouse had two classrooms, three grades in each room, one row for each grade, four to six students in each grade.  Three rows of heavy steel, four legged desks, each having a pocket for school things.  We were in the First Grade.

He was oversize in first grade, having been held back. Tall, thin, with hunger hanging from his bones. His brother was already categorized as a Juve, his Father an alcoholic, in and out of small jobs and a Mother desperately trying to keep it all together, and losing.

Faded jeans, not from stone washing, but from hand me downs from his older brother, or from a flee market sale. Everything wrong-sized, tattered and carrying a whiff of moth balls. Laces on too-big shoes loosely tied. Hair long, unruly and badly in need of a sheer.

He would shrink to half-size at his desk, trying to disappear, cowering, avoiding being called on by Ms. Pantages. He had some form of learning disability, undiagnosed dyslexia perhaps, but at that time, he was just Simple. He gripped his pencil awkwardly, written words were gibberish on the page.

The bell rang: Recess! The boys would run off to play. The girls would keep their distance. And he, was alone, off near a rock pit tossing stones, or alone pulling on long grass, or alone hanging near but not on the swings.

“You SMELL bad.”

Back in the classroom, there was a murmur, girls whispering, boys snickering. The teacher rushed him out of the classroom, his head buried in his chest in shame. A dark wet stain spread on the front of his jeans. A puddle gathered under the desk, dripping from his seat.

Dark corners, hidden, everything illuminated.

Forgive yourself.

Forgive yourself.



  1. This is so sad David, Well done, you have made me cry. I already want to find his mom and help her and her children.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Having been on the receiving end of this kind of childhood cruelty, it is hard for me to read this. You never forget it; it informs your personality. And even at the age of 62, remembering some of the taunts and actions can move me to tears. Is your silence back then yours to forgive or is it you who needs to ask for forgiveness? My ardent hope is that Johnny grew into a happy, successful adult – one who can heal the child within him and love the adult he has become.

    Liked by 3 people

    • So sorry that you or any other child had to experience this cruelty. Especially you, so sorry. As to your questions to me on forgiveness, let me remain Silent and let a great writer share my feelings:

      “Externally (he) remained the same but I think inside, condemned to darkness, he was sentenced to being torn apart by the manifestations of his memory.”

      ~ Sergei Lebedev, Oblivion

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Isn’t it incredible how things stick with you and how vivid the memories remain? This post took me back to 6th grade, Mr. Penrod’s math class, my schoolmate Mike limping out the door after the bell rings. I catch up, ask what’s wrong…’Did you take a fall on your dirt bike?’ He looks at me, grins grimly, says ‘Nah, made the old man made last night and he took the baseball bat to my legs.’ The horror and helplessness I felt in that moment haunts me to this day….

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Oh, my. Teaching kindness, empathy…much more important than reading, numbers. It’s an important challenge that cannot come soon enough. Do you know what happened to that child ? I think we all might have stories like this. Forgive yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. so very sad. i’m quite sure that he had a very hard life situation. and it is important to forgive yourself for only understanding the world in the context of your age and experience. if you knew then what you know now, you would have done things differently. i’m quite sure of that. and i hope that his life got better.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Poor little fellow. I’m sure that were people in the class who would have stuck up for him, if they’d been braver. Even some that went along with the ringleader of the bullies, might have stuck up for him, but they were thinking of their own skins, too. …Much like adults forced to fight in wars or carry out atrocities. How else can you explain it? All you can do is to seek to understand and to forgive, but that takes bravery, too, and is easier said than done.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So very sad David. I have often wondered the best course of action to help a child in this circumstance but I’m not sure there is one, except for the child to grow up and grow beyond his/her circumstances. Maybe we are not given more than we can handle? ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve often wondered if kids who are cruel become adults who are cruel. Or do they change? I hope they change, or what a world we would have. Maybe they learn to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. There was bullying long before it was called bullying. I remember being made fun of, people saying I smelled, all that — and I just thought it was part of life. Little did I know. At least these days we have the ability to keep our eyes open for those in its path. Sad but true story, David.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Claudia, that is so true. There is a much higher level of awareness of bullying today, and new forms via internet and social media. The pain, and hurt, however, unchanged, and remains high. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always look forward to hearing your point of view – candid, thoughtful and direct.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It starts with parenting and community. Teach the children well as we say in the classroom.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Forgiving others and ourselves is such an empowering act. It releases all that dammed up and damned energy that’s in our body.
    We are only human. We have all made mistakes.
    Take a deep inhale, hold it and then allow a long full long exhale. Let some of this energy move through you. Repeat as needed.
    Seriously. It works 💛
    We can’t recreate the past, but we can let it go and make a better future by embracing the person we are becoming.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Lorraine Mahoney says:


    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  13. stephaniekblackwoodgmailcom says:

    My Jimmy was named Doug. I often of his painful, awkward presence. Only in adulthood did I realize that he was probably learning disabled. So I googled. He died in 2012. He was two years older than my class. He continued living in my hometown. He had 10 grandchildren and three greats…

    Things turned out ok. He had family. He had love. He had a life as rich as anyone else.

    But I should have been kind. Thank you for your truth, compassion, and grace. And always, David, for your courage.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. ‘Do-overs’ — I believe we all have those moments in our lives and hearts. The memories can sting – the memories can be the voice that guides us toward better choices today.
    Thank you for this moment… to pause.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. lenwaldron says:

    Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I take the long way there, but its the same. Its a good reflection to have. Most kids have a cruel streak. Part of ir tribal nature maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This post reminds me of why I have chosen to teach students with learning differences. Nearly every one has a similar childhood story and they all want to be that successful adult. It breaks my heart to hear the story but gladden me that I can be part of the path to their adulthood.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ooo. This is a hard one. I remember a lot of Jimmys in my grade school. I don’t remember kids being mean, just *shunning* them–which was probably just as hurtful. I also remember “befriending” another girl named Sandy, poor, socially needy, overweight. She was a sweet girl, but I kept our friendship a secret. I was embarrassed because she wasn’t cool or very smart.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Powerful post and discussion, David. Not much to add other than I too was on the receiving end for a couple of years in early grade school, for completely different reasons. And I forgave my tormentors long, long time ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This is difficult. But forgiveness is definitely key. We’ve all got skeletons, strings of them, if we’ve lived at all. And I’m not sure any of us is born kind, though we doubtless possess the quality. Kids are egos-in-development, writ large.

    I love the way you wrote this piece, the way you write your first-person observations. Always engaging. (Note from my editor self: fleA market; hair in need of a sheAr). Aloha, David ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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