by Alan Davies
Bully beware! Things are not always as they appear.
| RODNEY BOWSER GOES DOWN
Sometimes he took the road to the bus stop and other times he left his yard, climbed over the split rail fence and crossed over the brook. He’d crossed over the brook about a million times.
He and his best friends Andrew and Terry had even dammed it up. It would grow from just shin deep and about a yard wide to over their knees and over five feet wide. Sometimes they dammed it up so well that the water that escaped their boards, rocks, mud and branches was only about six inches wide and three inches deep.
Today though he had to be careful; he was in his school clothes. A short sleeved button - down white dress shirt with navy blue stripes, (it wasn’t the tuck in kind) navy blue slacks and brand new Penney loafers.
It was the Cordovan Penney loafers that were the reason for his caution. They had zero tread. Not like his Keds or even his bare feet. The rocks were still wet with morning dew and that made them slicker than snot! A description he loved but would never repeat in his house. Terry had said it about the very same rocks he needed to use to cross the brook now. The expression had made him and Andrew laugh!
Now though, slicker than snot meant one mistake would mean he could end up right in the brook; which would get him in real trouble. He’d have to go back to the house and change out of his wet school clothes and his Mom would hear him coming back into the house and boy would she be upset!
She’d probably call down from upstairs and say, “Who’s down there?”
He’d have to say, “It’s just me Mom.”
Then it would be the questions; why are you home? Did you miss the bus? Forget your books?
He’d have to say, “I’m changing my clothes…I fell in the brook.”
Then his mom would use his whole name. “Kelsey Aaron Quinn…what in goodness name were you doing near the brook on a school morning?”
Amazingly, he thought of this entire possible bad result in the split second before he jumped to each of the two slippery rocks and onto the giant granite rock that ran a full twenty feet along the brook. It was the worst slippery spot since the giant rock (he and his friends called brontosaurus rock) had been worn smooth and rounded by thousands of years of water flowing over it and against it.
He made it! He headed up a small trail to the path that led past the boat tie ups and right to Beach One which was just about 100 feet from his bus stop.
Summer was sure over. They’d already taken down the lifeguard tower and put away the wading rope with the red and white floats at Beach One on Lake Tanahoe.
Kelsey could hardly believe that everything was all put up and away. The Life Guard’s storage shed still had the Fourth of July Picnic and Fireworks 1967 poster stapled to it. The Red and Blue letters were now pinkish and gray and the top left corner hung loose. Next to it was the Beach Rules poster and it was in way worse shape.
As he crossed the beach he felt sand creeping into the side of his Penney loafers and he grumbled in his mind. “Great now I’m going to have to empty my shoes.” Taking the beach short cut to his bus stop was not turning out to be a very good idea.
He got to the road and put down his book bag and pulled off each shoe and emptied them, then brushed off his socks and slipped them back on. He realized he did this without a shoe horn which would really get his dad mad if he’d seen that!
He got to the stop with plenty of time to join in a game of kick-the-can, but he decided he’d better not risk scuffing his new shoes. There was no way to play kick-the-can in polished Cordovan Penney loafers and not scuff them up pretty good. Most of the guys at the bus stop would be wearing their Keds, or Converse and they’d love kicking the crud out of his Penney loafers.
Kelsey’s mom and dad weren’t mean, but they were strict with him and his brothers, Mark and Bryce. They didn’t dress their sons up with the idea that they’d get razzed in school about their clothes. Nope, they dressed their boys for the teachers, the Principle and maybe even the PTA. The Quinn Family dressed up for church, school, traveling on airplanes, and of course, going to relatives houses for dinner.
So while most of the boys were wearing their hair long and even wearing t-shirts and blue jeans, the Quinn kids were in dress clothes for school. Their hair was cut tight above their ears and their bangs were combed up in a wave secured by V-05 hair cream for men.
The bus rolled up in front of Franklin Township Elementary School and Kelsey sucked in his breath. He was looking forward to Fifth Grade it was in the big kids section of the school 5th and 6th graders only.
He had a secret this year that only his best friends at the lake knew. He was wearing a shirt that didn’t tuck in because he had a colostomy. His bowel was poking out and covered with a bag that stuck on to his stomach’s skin. The bag was there to catch his poop!
Kelsey had been born with a messed up body and he got sick because of it this summer. He had to keep the colostomy until things healed right and then he’d get everything put back in and he’d actually poop like everyone else.
He walked up the closed door of his classroom after re-reading the room assignment letter the school had sent out. He was a little worried because his letter, under teacher, said: Undetermined.
He pushed the door open and his eyes scanned the classroom. It had cool posters up; one of President Kennedy and one of Martin Luther King and some others he didn’t recognize. The best one was from by favorite artist. It was psychedelic; by Peter Max!
As he got lost in the poster he heard his name; “Kelsey Quinn?”
“Here!” Kelsey answered which caused Jennifer Martin to giggle with two other girls he’d never seen before.
“Great!” He thought; the prettiest girl in the whole school laughing at him. He felt his ears glowing red hot.
It was his teacher calling his name, but it wasn’t for attendance.
Kelsey could hardly believe that this man could be his teacher. He was dressed in a deep yellow shirt with puffy long sleeves, he wore a tie, but it was like five inches wide, purple and had pictures of the Beatles as cartoons on it! His hair was long and he had a big mustache that was over his lips and connected with his sideburns! His teacher was a hippy!
“My name’s Mr. Cooper.”
Kelsey realized that this was going to be the talk about his special situation.
Sure enough Mr. Cooper wanted him to know that he knew that Kelsey would need special bathroom breaks and that he wasn’t allowed to play dodge-ball and that he wouldn’t be dressing-out for gym etc. etc.
At least Mr. Cooper was a man; a nice one. It would have been just about unbearable if he had Mrs.Kasbersak talking to him about this stuff!
He was allowed to pick out his own desk and he chose a window seat about three desks back from the very front. He was smart enough not to sit in the front row.
Stick-thin kids like him with a name like his learned how to avoid some of the more obvious pit-falls of the school year. You sure didn’t sit in the front row like a teacher’s pet and you didn’t go crazy raising your hand to be allowed to clean the black board and erasers.
Mr. Cooper was cool. He was smart; you could tell. Of course, most teachers were, or they wouldn’t be teachers. Most of all it was how he seemed to listen to each kid. Also, he did not allow any “Put-downs”. If you called someone a name or made fun of them in a mean way, he’d make you do some writing assignment about how to treat others.
Room 36 was a nice exciting place to be.
The hallways and the boys’ bathroom were different. They were the haunts of the bad kids. Kids, who smoked in the bathroom, swore and terrorized everyone smaller or weaker than them.
Kelsey’s worst enemy was Rodney Bowser. He was like a foot taller than all of the other kids in his classes. No one really knew how old he was. He was husky; not really fat. He wore a crew cut and had squinty mean eyes. You couldn’t even see what color they were. His face was a constant state of red. His freckles would stand out even more, but no kid in Franklin Township Elementary School ever mentioned his freckles. Not even when he was calling someone else, “Freckled fart face!” No one would say, “But you’ve got more freckles than me!”
The school days went quickly turning into weeks and amazingly, Kelsey had escaped so far without a single encounter with Rodney and his side-kick, Guy Rotello. He didn’t have gym with them and they didn’t even go to the lunch room at the same time.
Guy was taller than Rodney, but Rodney was clearly the boss. Just like in those old black and white gangster movies on the Saturday Afternoon Matinee on NBC; the boss was short and his goons were about two foot taller than him. They’d say, “Yes boss, right away boss,” anyway, just like they were the opposite sizes.
Kelsey’s good luck came to a screeching halt the week before Halloween weekend.
“Hey, Guy, look what I see. It’s Kelsey Quinn!” Rodney said making his voice sound like a girl; which clearly was meant to translate to those around that Kelsey was the girly one.
Guy goof-awed and said, “Yeah, Kelsey Q!”
“Kelsey Queer!” Rodney said. He was very pleased with himself, as if he hadn’t already worn that name for Kelsey out since second grade.
Kelsey was trapped. There were only students in the hallway. Not a teacher in sight.
Guy and Rodney came right up to him pinned him to the wall. The other kids nearby watched in terrified fascination (probably glad that they weren’t this poor kid; Kelsey Queer).
Rodney and Guy pushed his books out from under his arm and Kelsey barely looked to see where his Geography homework slipped out and away to.
“Come on, let me go, I’ve got to go.” Kelsey couldn’t believe the fear he heard in his own voice. He sounded like a fairy-boy; which Guy was now growling in his ear.
“What-cha want to do fairy-boy? Do something if you’ve got the guts!” Guy taunted grinding his knuckles into Kelsey’s chest.
“Just quit…or, or, I’ll show you my guts!” Kelsey said with some cool detached voice he’d never uttered before.
“What queer-bait?” Rodney pressed.
“I said, stop this now, or I’ll show you my guts!” Kelsey said, backing up.
“Your guts…they’re on your insides, if you had any in the first place.” Rodney slapped Guy’s hand.
Guy said, “Good one!”
Then Kelsey pulled up his shirt; his pink bowel just poking out under the bag’s plastic. It was wet and shiny…his guts were right there!
Rodney turned a funny whitish blue and fainted! Rodney Bowser went down!
Some kid said, “Holy Cow! He fainted!”
Guy ran to get help, calling for a teacher, sounding very much like a girl!
Teachers came streaming out of their classrooms to the fallen bully’s aid.
“What happened here?” Mrs. Kasbersak demanded.
A smallish blonde boy said, “That boy made the boy on the floor see his guts!”
“Who’s guts?” Mrs. Kasbersak asked clearly confused.
Mr. Cooper was not confused. He turned to Kelsey, “Kelsey go to the Office.”
This wasn’t in the student rule book. Not like; No smoking, no fighting, no gum chewing, no swearing etc, Principle Norod had to admit.
Even so, something had to be done.
So it was, that day, in October 1967, that for the first and last time, a student at Franklin Township Elementary School was given detention for showing another kid his guts.