A Youngster Is Teased About His First Name
IT’S A CRUEL WORLD, LESLIE OVERMAN
oving to a new school in a new town isn’t easy on any kid, but what made it even worse for young Leslie Overman was that he was going to high school — as a freshman.
Kids can be cruel, and Leslie knew that he’d be targeted for the ritualistic hazing that all freshman had to endure. But he wasn’t prepared for what else would befall him on that first day at Riverdale High School.
He’d moved from Edgewood, a small rural town in the country, where all the kids knew each other and had grown up together. Nobody there ever made fun of his first name because...well, they just didn’t. Maybe it was the friendlier atmosphere, or maybe it was the closeness of a tight-knit community, but he’d never given it a second thought. Truth was, he’d never heard of anyone but himself being called ‘Leslie’, and as far as he knew, he was the only ‘Leslie’ on the planet.
But now he was a total stranger in this new school, and the upperclassmen had their eye on him the first day he walked in.
~ ~ ~
It was lunchtime, and Leslie was sitting by himself on one of the benches outside of the school when a Junior by the name of Roy Lukas sauntered up and stood in front him. Wearing his green and white letterman jacket, Leslie immediately recognized him as a jock.
“Hey kid,” Roy said, “you ain’t from around here, are ya?”
Leslie slowly raised his head from his peanut butter and banana sandwich and looked up at the older student.
“No,” he said somewhat shyly, and then lowered his head again.
A few moments of silence drifted by as the warm September sun bore down on them. A few blackbirds took to the air from a nearby oak tree.
“So what’s your name, kid?”
Roy shook his head
Roy grabbed his gut and almost keeled over from laughing so hard.
“Leslie? Leslie?” he said, still trying to catch his breath. “That’s a girl’s name!”
Back in Edgewood, Leslie had spent most of his life working on his family’s ranch, so he wasn’t any 100 pound weakling. And his father had always told him to never back down from anyone if he truly believed in his heart that he was in the right. Leslie sensed that he was about to get into a fight that he probably didn’t stand a chance of winning — Roy had him by a good 70 pounds and half a foot — but he believed.
He truly believed in his heart that Leslie was not a girl’s name.
Leslie said, “No, it’s not.” He set his peanut butter and banana sandwich down beside him (hoping it wasn’t going to be replaced with a knuckle sandwich) and stood up.
Roy raised his eyebrows, and his laughing smile turned into a sneering grin. Still, he wondered about the kid’s boldness for standing up to him.
“Well, Leslie, there ain’t too many guys walking around named ‘Leslie’, is there, Leslie?”
“It’s not a girl’s name.” He took a step toward Roy, but Roy held his ground.
“Little boy, you don’t know what you’re —”
Roy didn’t have a chance to finish. Before Leslie even knew what he was doing, his right arm came up swinging in a tight arc. It was a good swing — might have even been a slobber-knocker — but unfortunately it barely glanced off Roy’s chin.
Once again a few moments of silence drifted by in the warm September sun, but this time the blackbirds stayed in the oak tree to watch the action.
A small group of students began gathering around.
Leslie wasn’t sure what to do, but he could tell by the fire in Roy’s eye’s what he was about to do. The right cross hit squarely on Leslie’s left cheekbone, sending him backwards and sideways. His knee caught the corner of the bench. His body flailing out of control, he did a one-eighty, and a split second later the back of his head hit the sidewalk with an audible ‘CRACK’!
Roy stared at the kid, who was laying prone on his back with his eyes wide open. A heavy uncomfortable silence hung in the air for a few moments...
Until Leslie said: “I get knocked down, but I get up again! You are never gonna keep me down!”
But Leslie’s body remained motionless, except for his mouth, which once again repeated, “I get knocked down, but I get up again! You are never gonna keep me down!”
The students who'd gathered around watched with wonder as a thin wisp of blue smoke began rising from Leslie’s left ear.
And again: “I get knocked down, but I get up again!”
Sparks began erupting from Leslie’s eyes and nostrils, and the scent of burning plastic and electrical wire started filling the air.
“You are never gonna…keep me…down…”
Part of the back of Leslie’s head fell off, sending still more smoke and sparks into the air, and a soft sizzling sound could be heard.
“I…get knocked…down…but…I get…up…again…”
The students started whispering to each other as they tried to figure out what they were witnessing.
Suddenly, Leslie’s voice jumped to a high pitched soprano and sped up to where each word sounded like one big long word.
A pause, and then his voice dropped to a low, slow bass:
The sizzling and the sparks gradually began to subside, as did the smoke coming from Leslie’s ear. A bright four inch flame briefly shot out of his right eye socket, and then, like a candle taking its last gasp, slowly winked out of sight.
~ ~ ~
The last words that Leslie ever spoke were from his favorite song, Tubthumping, by Chumbawamba.
Leslie Overman truly did believe in his heart, even if his heart was a little different than ours.