riversPosted: November 15, 2012
Junior High coalesces the scattered streams of elementary school to a single river meandering toward the future. Our school served the township, collecting those of us just outside the city and the farm kids from far away. On the first day of school a couple lockers down from me was Fred B. In Junior High where most of the ninth graders have more hair on their chins than seventh graders on their whole body, we were forced to make friends quickly. Fear drove us. Fred and I became friends. I think I still posses the 1/2 of a dollar bill we split, the first to make the NBA to claim the huge amount of one hundred dollars. It’s true, boys dream of playing in the NBA, even when they are skinny, and small, wear glasses and aren’t really very good.
Fred sometimes stayed after school and we played and had dinner at my house. I never visited him at his foster parent’s place. It was way way out, and we were nearer to town. Fred and I discovered and shared barbarian adventures with swords and beautiful women through novels, like Robert E. Howard with his Bran Mak Morn the king of the Picts in Worms of the Earth, or Conan the Barbarian. Once Fred told me he couldn’t return the latest Conan book I had lent him. Someone had opened his locker and torn the book to shreds after scribbling profanities all over it.
I didn’t understand then, and I still don’t. What cowardice operates that way? I suppose that is the way of hate, transposing heroic with wretched.
At the end of the year his foster parents sent Fred to one of the city schools where he wouldn’t be so different and alone. We lost contact, and when I saw Fred in high school some years later at a football game, he was surrounded by friends and didn’t recognize me. A lot of water flows under the bridge between Junior High and Senior High.
May you judge others by their character, and be treated the same.