Thursday, June 9, 2011

How many Robbie Toes have we all known?

I remember when I was in junior high school, there was this older boy we all called Peachy King.  My few friends and I thought he was the cat's meow because he had a mustache -- hence, "peach" -- but we were the only ones.  He was tormented daily.  It wasn't that he was slow or odd; it was something different, something I could not then nor can I now place my finger on.  He was a bully's target, one who is just born to stand out in that regard.

We were in the locker room, changing out of our gym clothes when some of the older, more developed boys stormed in carrying Peachy King by the arms and legs.  I remember how red his face was, how he was crying for them to stop.  The bullies laughed like devils.  They ended up trying to cram him into a container that was used to store sundry gym equipment.  Peachy King held on for dear life, his legs sticking straight up out of the container like two crossed straws.  The kids finally relented and left him there crying.  He was crammed in pretty good.  It took us a while to pry him out.  It took me years to forgive myself for being nothing more than an afraid bystander.

I have known Robbie Toe.  I grew up with him, watched him eat alone in the cafeteria, looked away with everyone else when he was pelted with peas.  Robbie Toe was shunned, ignored in dark corners at school dances.  Robbie Toe wore the same Dollar Store clothes almost every day.  I have seen the light go out of Robbie Toe's eyes, perhaps the last light among us all as we fell headlong from the simplicity of childhood into the torments of adolescence.  Robbie Toe was both the last boy and the first man.  Loneliness is never so sharply felt than by someone who could never figure out why his only purpose was to be the butt of someone's joke.

Perhaps this is why the ending of ALL THE BAD THINGS must be what it is. 

3 comments:

  1. Congratulations J.Michael! Not an easy story to tell but one that has to be told!

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  2. I can't wait to read you book, Jason. And I'm so glad there is someone like you in the world to tell a story like this!

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  3. Thank you for writing about this subject. Because bullying also causes suicide, it's a subject near and dear to my heart. We must not tip-toe around it.

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