Reverend Michael was one of my very good friends. In fact, he was my only friend outside my family. But I saw past the point that he was a priest, and I see that he’s a regular person. Our favorite thing to do was take long walks in the woods and talk. It was mostly what was happening in our families, about his past week’s homily, and what good things happened at school. Most of the time, it wasn’t much. I was a good student and all, but I seemed to have been deemed the unofficial human Whack-a-Mole for the gang of bullies in our school. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m the new kid from Tennessee, or that my family’s almost too poor to buy me new clothes, or some other reason unbeknownst to me. It’s a good thing no one knows about my friendship with Reverend Michael, or they’d get me for that too.
I was getting ready to leave school for the day, thinking about my visit with the Reverend, when my locker was slammed for me. I looked up at the leering faces of about five guys, ganged up behind Dennis, their leader. He cocked his head, and asked me, “Where you goin’ Tennessee string-bean?” I lowered my head, silent. “String-bean doesn’t want to answer his superiors? That’s no good,” Dennis said, in the way he did whenever he was about to beat me up. “Wassa madda wit choo, String-bean? They don’ teach ya fancy manner-isms down in that thar Tennessee?” he asked in his horrible Southern accent, hitching up his pants in a hill-billy style. His gang roared with laughter. My face went hot, my heart pounding, ready to take off. “How’s about we teach hill-billy String-bean some manners?” Dennis asked his gang, beginning to reach for me. This was my cue to run for my life.
I tore down the hill, Dennis and his cronies close behind. “Come back String-bean!” someone called. “Yeah! That ain’t good manner-isms!” someone else yelled. My heart pounded in my head, my feet flying. I decided to take the short-cut through the public park’s ball field. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Stan, one of the tough guys, on my left, and a gangly kid on my right. They were trying to cut me off! I skidded to a stop to turn, but too late. I was surrounded.
One of them pinned my arms behind my back, turning me to face Dennis. In his taunting voice, he said, “Now that’s something you don’t do, String-bean. When someone superior to you addresses you, you curtsy to them. Not nod your head, or bow, but curtsy.” I was mortified. Curtsy?
“That’s right String-bean,” another hissed in my ear. “When you’re a string-bean like you, you curtsy. Here, I’ll help you.” He walked me over to a mud puddle, and shoved me in. I attempted to sit up, but someone held me down.
Cruel laughter rang in my head. “Aw, String-bean," Dennis cooed in mock sympathy, " I’m ashamed. I thought you had better balance. But I’ll let you practice tonight, and test you tomorrow. Maybe during lunch, on a table?” I felt the pressure lift off my back, so I got up and ran towards the church. But as soon as I got up, someone tripped me, and kicked my side, knocking the wind out of me. I got up and sprinted towards the church again, cruel laughter ringing in my head.