Chapter 2: No Hind Legs

You want to keep running and hiding? Is that what you want?

Corn Field in New England (Photo: Jesse Hawkes)

Author’s Warning: I do not condone the derogatory use of words such as “fag” or “faggot” in No Hind Legs. As a writer, I am trying to illustrate what society was like in the 1970s, and in some ways the way it still is.

No Hind Legs

Chapter 2 of Sex in the 7th Grade

Seventh grader Donnie Flynn hunched over the piano playing a simple tune. Number 9, he whispered to himself. He liked keeping track. During one lunch period he reached twenty-four. The same song twenty-four times before he had to leave the auditorium. He knew he could reach thirty. He knew he could.

Two girls sat in the back talking about teachers, boys, and other girls. One of them, Connie King, captain of the 8th grade cheerleaders, used the top of her pen to unscrew a bolt in the seat in front of her. “What a jerk,” she said, looking up at the chubby boy as he began playing the song again.

“You said it. Flynn’s a faggot,” her friend chimed in.

“There,” Connie muttered as she continued unscrewing the bolt with her fingers. She left it a half-turn in place. “Rigged that one real good.”

Hardly an assembly passed without someone falling to the floor followed by muffled cheers and laughter and teachers scurrying to restore order. Over the summer vacation, half of the four hundred seats in the auditorium had been re-bolted, but it took a small handful of dedicated kids less than two months to undo the effort.

The school administration no longer held public meetings in the junior high auditorium. It was better to use the library or cafeteria. Less chance of some parent falling to the floor and far fewer obscenities scratched into furnishings.

Connie was working on another bolt and Donnie was on number 14 when guidance counselor Fred Blanchard stepped in at the back of the auditorium.

“Where you girls supposed to be?”

“Outside,” Connie replied.

“Then get there!”

The girls groaned.

“Move it.”

Connie and her friend mumbled as they left by the side door for the playground.

Arms folded, Fred Blanchard stared in disgust at the boy who pretended not to see him. Except for ruddiness about his nose and eyes, Fred Blanchard could have stepped out of the fall Sears catalog. He was in better physical condition than most men age fifty. His weekly swimming in the winter and golf in the summer countered some of the damage he inflicted upon himself in a nightly affair with Lord Calvert. Blanchard had always believed that his rightful position was at the senior high school where the offices were bigger and the ventilation better.

Fred Blanchard had no respect for sloppy or overweight teachers and students. He looked down on many of the students and more than a few of the faculty at Mountainview Junior High School. But in spite of his own strict program of personal hygiene he regularly developed an irritating ingrown hair just inside his right nostril. Always the same spot, it would swell for four or five days, and enlarge and redden his already reddish nose. Behind his back, most of the kids and some of the teachers called him the Beak.

Donnie was always neat and clean when he left home in the morning. But there was something about his flabby body and the way he walked that made him a target for many of the kids and even some of the staff. On top of that he was weak, a coward. Fred Blanchard couldn’t stomach boys who were afraid to stand up and fight, especially if they were big enough and Donnie was plenty big. Several times in recent months he had taken the boy aside and lectured him to stand up and fight like a man. In the faculty room Fred Blanchard referred to Donnie and others like him as having “no hind legs.”

But what angered Blanchard most about Don Flynn weren’t his looks or anything that he did or didn’t do, but what others tried to do for him. The nurse and the principal were always trying to help Donnie by giving him special privileges, permitting him to arrive late at school to avoid the bullies who otherwise waited en route to beat him up. He knew it would be rough on the boy to make him face the real world, but how else would he learn to survive.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Donnie’s family was on welfare. Blanchard felt nauseous as he stared at the boy hunched over the keyboard pretending not to notice this man who detested him. Blanchard shook his head and left.

• • •

On the playground Connie and her friend joined Donna Duke behind the backstop.

“Where ‘n hell you guys been?” Donna asked.

“Auditorium,” Connie answered. “The Beak kicked us out.”

“What an ass! Anybody else in there?”

Connie shook her head. Donnie didn’t count.

“Look,” Connie displayed the rough end of the screw driving pen. “Got three more. Right next to the back row.”

“Seventh or eighth?” Donna wondered. Seventh graders sat on one side of the assembly hall. Eighth graders on the other.

“Eighth.” Connie replied as the recess bell rang.

• • •

As students were passing to next class, principal Cecil Dunn poked his head into the auditorium. Donnie was on number 18. Cecil didn’t like seeing the boy isolated, but he also thought the hind leg strategy was as useless as it was dumb.

The boy glanced up, smiled and quickly resumed his song in hopes of playing it through perfectly for the principal. He did. But when he looked up again, Cecil was gone.

Don’s rested his head on his hands. He wanted to stay, but eighth graders would soon be filing into the auditorium for chorus. He started slowly up the aisle toward the corridor where he would wait just a few more minutes until all the kids passed on to class. He pulled on the zipper of his pants. He hated the way they wrinkled at the crotch. Being fat didn’t help. He thought about Rick, the custodian. Rick’s pants wrinkled the same way.

• • •

There are two kinds of overweight kids at the junior high, the weak flabby ones and the tough fat ones. Kenny Distken was one of the tough fat kids. He walked with his arms slightly bent, hands clenched. Like the rest of him, his feet were thick, short, and tough. They moved with direction and purpose, jabbing straight ahead. He didn’t carry his weight, he muscled it, threw it around.

Kenny occasionally beat up Donnie. It was more or less civilized. If Donnie dropped to the floor to beg forgiveness, Kenny would let him off with little more than a quick kick or a slap on the head. But if Donnie tried to get away, Kenny would let him have it good in the stomach, often to the delight of a small chorus of boys and girls who would circle and chant Fag Flynn, Fag Flynn, Fag Flynn.

Still, everybody including Donnie liked Kenny. Sometimes Cecil warned the boy to go easy on Donnie, but Kenny never got detention for hitting him. Ken was a pretty good student. Never caused trouble in class. Never cheated. Never hit a girl.

Most of the kids and some teachers felt that whatever Donnie got he deserved. Even those who were determined to protect Donnie, like the nurse and the principal, felt deep down that somehow Donnie had it coming.

A better than average student himself, Donnie could have done even better in school, but nobody really expected him to, himself included. What seemed to be wrong with Donnie was mostly the way he looked and moved. He waddled. His feet turned out. And he cupped his hands for no apparent reason. Even nurse Leslie Cramer was bemused by the spectacle. “Somebody’s got to take that boy aside and teach him how to walk,” she told the principal one day, as they watched him flapping down the corridor.

Donnie had been taken aside. Starting the fifth week of school he had met weekly with a special counselor from the county mental health agency. The intentions were good, but it complicated things even more for the boy. Kids and teachers alike resented him getting out of class on Tuesday afternoons to see his counselor — even though Catholics left school early for weekly religion classes, athletes got out for long bus trips, and kids with crooked teeth were excused for dental appointments, somehow it just didn’t seem right that problem kids should get out of class.

Leslie Cramer and Cecil Dunn had arranged for the sessions, but they also didn’t think much would come of them. The mental health agency hadn’t done much for problem kids over the years, but still it seemed the right thing to do, and the school system had a sweet deal — only a dollar per child per year — with the agency, so why not use it.

After several weeks of the sessions with Donnie, the counselor made what seemed like a good suggestion. The idea was to find a big brother eighth grader, somebody who would spend some time getting to know Donnie after school and who might also serve as a body-guard in the corridors and on the playground. The eighth grader would have to have the respect of kids like Kenny. Cecil thought the plan was solid. He spoke with one eighth grade boy who said he’d give it a try. Then Dunn called Donnie into his office.

“What’d’ a say, Donnie?” Cecil asked, confident that the boy would be eager to accept. “Your counselor thinks it’s a good idea. I spoke with an eighth grade boy who wants to work with you.”

Donnie said nothing. Just looked at his feet.

The principal pulled his swivel chair closer to the boy. “Come on, Donnie, what do you say?” He tapped the boy’s knee. “You’ve got nothing to lose. I spoke with Holden Taylor. He’d be like a big brother.”

Donnie slumped in his chair and tucked his chin into his turtleneck sweater, dangling his hands on the seat between his legs.

The radiator hissed under the window. Cecil glanced at the thermometer. It was 80 degrees and the heat was still pumping. Damn Rick, he thought, the idiot can’t even operate a furnace. Sweating, he stood up and yanked at the crotch of his pants. He opened the window.

No longer confident, the principal tried again. He leaned forward and took the boy’s shoulders firmly in his hands. “What do you say? Holden’s a good kid. He likes you. Give it a try?”

For a moment it appeared that Donnie would speak. He looked up, then down again at his feet and moved his chin back and forth in the turtleneck.

Cecil felt like smacking the boy. He knew exactly what Kenny must feel when he was pounding on Donnie. “You want to keep getting beat up, is that it? You want to keep running and hiding? Is that what you want?”

The boy said nothing.

“Fine! Here!” He handed Donnie a late slip. “Go on back to class.”

“But I’ve got gym,” Donnie said as he stood and moved slowly toward the door.

“Okay. Out there then,” Dunn pointed to a chair in the outer office beside the secretary’s desk where nobody would bother the boy.

• • •

Donnie Flynn wasn’t popular, but he was liked. Certain girls in particular were drawn to the boy. Several had some genuine affection for him.

One morning just after Thanksgiving break, two girls signed out of study hall to speak with the principal. Connie was one of them. She had just started going steady with Kenny Distken and she often stood by as Kenny beat up on Donnie. But she wanted to help Donnie. She liked him.

“We’re here to ask if there’s anything we can do to help a certain kid,” she began, as she and her friend fumbled in front of the principal. “But please don’t tell anybody that we came, okay?” Connie’s friend was silent. She had agreed see the principal, but only if Connie would do all the talking.

Cecil promised that he wouldn’t say anything. “Who is it?” he asked.

Connie glanced into the outer office. “Can we pull this,” she asked pointing to the curtain.

“No,” Cecil said, “I’d rather not.”

Connie cupped her hand and whispered “It’s Donnie Flynn.”

It struck Cecil that that nobody every called Donnie anything other than Donnie. Never Don or Donald.

“What about Donnie?”

“Well, you know, Mr. Dunn, the kids call him names.”

“Yes, I know.”

Connie paused, then leaned forward and whispered. “They call him Fag Flynn.”

She straightened up and looked Cecil directly, almost accusingly, I the eye. “Do you think that’s right?” Connie demanded self-righteously. “Do you think it’s fair? Somebody should do something about it, don’t you think?”

Cecil was bemused and irritated by the tone in her. Along with her boyfriend, Connie was one of the worst offenders. Who in hell do these little hypocritical bitches think they are lecturing me on what to do about Donnie? he thought.

“You’re right. We need more students like you to help kids like Donnie.” Cecil sensed his duty to encourage them. “Maybe you could talk with some of the other kids, like Kenny, and get them off Donnie’s back. What do you think?” Cecil didn’t expect much from such missions of mercy. He knew that they were often conceived and concluded in a matter of hours or a few days at most.

“Yeah, that’s a great idea,” Connie looked at her mute friend who pretended to agree. “We’ll talk to Kenny,” she said as she handed her Pass slip to Cecil who looked for a pen under the papers on his desk. Connie started to reach into her purse for her pen, but then remembered how the end was all chewed up from working on those bolts in the auditorium. Cecil found a pen and signed the slip. The girls felt great as they left the office.

In the days that followed, Connie and her friend would not only continue to call Donnie Fag Flynn, but she’d also continue to tease him by calling him Donnie-kins, making kissing sounds and laughing as Donnie would smile and waddle away to the amusement of other kids who would then make the same sounds.

Donnie liked the attention Connie gave him. He thought about Connie more than he did about any other girl at school. He thought about her when he went to bed at night, and when he woke up in the morning. He thought about her before and after school and during study halls.

It wasn’t just fantasy. Every day, if he timed it right, between third and fourth period Connie would let him brush against her when he was going into Geography as she was coming out of History. He was sure she let him do this on purpose, because she smiled and said hi Donnie in a really nice way, almost like she was singing. He was sure that he loved her, and certain that she liked him at least a little bit. And he was right. Connie wanted to help him at least as much as she wanted to hurt him.

• • •

Mid-winter Cecil was confronted in the cafeteria by the learning resource room teacher Sarah Murray-Marks. She didn’t work directly with Donnie, but she had lunchroom duty and was concerned. Donnie always ate alone in the crowded lunchroom. He was the last to arrive — last in line — that way nobody could push in front of him. He’d be the last to leave. And he’d run from the cafeteria to the auditorium even though nobody was chasing him.

Sarah motioned with her eyes toward the back of the cafeteria where Donnie was sitting. “We’ve got to help that kid. What’s happening with him anyway?”

Donnie smiled as he picked the chocolate coating from his ice cream. He knew they were talking about him. He liked Sarah. She always gave him a pat on the head when they passed in the hall.

Cecil liked her too. In her mid-thirties, just starting a new career in a new field called special education, she was one of the few teachers who fully supported his campaign to make the junior high into more of a middle school. She always said what she thought. Let the chips fall. A real bulldog when fighting for kids who needed help. She spoke through her teeth when she was mad.

“What’s Blanchard doing for the kid?”


“Right. And that’s what he’s worth. Useless as teats on a bull — ”

Cecil watched her mouth as she went on cursing the guidance counselor. He loved hearing women talk that way, if they weren’t talking about him.

“We’ve tried,” Cecil pleaded his own case, “Donnie doesn’t want the help.”

After hearing how Donnie refused to try the community health big brother idea, Sarah just shrugged.

“Then try something else. Meet with Donnie’s parents.”

When Sarah was being interviewed for her job in the spring of the previous year, she talked with the guidance counselor, and immediately afterwards told Cecil that the school board ought to buy out the man’s contract to get rid of him.

Cecil had explained that the Blanchards moved in the upper circles of the Mountainview community where there was a good deal of support for Fred’s “hind leg” philosophy.

So Sarah and nurse Leslie Cramer along with just a few teachers huddled over questions of what to do with kids like Donnie. In recent weeks Nurse Cramer had had several conversations with another boy who, in the privacy of her office, had talked about committing suicide. In fact, this boy, Aaron, one of the smallest, most depressed eighth graders, had tried and failed the summer before. He was cut down from a tree not far from his house by a passerby. He had botched the noose. All he got for his effort was a neck brace that he wore for the next two months.

As the last few kids were leaving the lunchroom, Sarah prodded Cecil.

“Did you see the article on adolescent boys in the Sunday Globe supplement?”

“Glanced at it.”

“About suicides?”

“Yeah, I read a little of it. I’ve seen a couple of other articles. The CBS special.”

“Suicides are up all over the country.” Sarah nodded toward Donnie. “That dooh-dooh in the guidance office doesn’t have a clue.”

“I know.” Cecil sighed.

There was a loud crash from the kitchen.

“Catch you later, Sarah,” Cecil called back as he hurried toward the cooking area where Gert, the head cook, stood over Rick, the custodian, who was picking up plastic dishes scattered about on the floor, under the counters.

“I told you. I told you,” she scolded, as the fat, red-faced man squatted and lurched about like a large turkey with a broken leg. With his enormous round stomach pressing into his large army belt buckle, Rick grunted in pain each time he grabbed another plate.

Time and again Gert had warned Rick about piling dishes too high on the counter. It was his job to stack the dishes when they came out of the dish washer. It was her job to put them away. She and Rick were both short; but it’s much easier to pile high the dishes than it is to move them once they are stacked. But Rick was forgetful, perhaps on purpose, and each day he’d stack those piles higher as Gert’s temper swelled. Finally, she’d had it. Tired of waiting for the accident, she dumped the stack herself.

As she followed him about, Gert stared at the sweat beading and falling from Rick’s face. “You make me sick. You make me sick.” She cared not that the principal was standing in the doorway. In fact she liked letting him know who was boss in the kitchen.

“Put them there in those racks for to wash,” Gert said with less emotion. She

crossed herself as she turned to other tasks, satisfied she’d taught Rick a lesson. What Gert hated most about the custodian was his mustache and the way he looked at some of the seventh and eighth grade girls. She knew what he was thinking. It didn’t bother her when other men including Cecil Dunn looked with interest on some of those same girls. Rick was different. “Dirty. Rick’s dirty man,” Gert often told Cecil, with a wry smile, as she’d cross herself. “You see how he looks at my girls.”

“Listen, dear man, law suits are on the raise too, and if some kid does himself in on your watch, and the family finds out that Blanchard is just sitting on his hands, and that you knew about it — well?” She touched Cecil’s shoulder. “Do you hear me?”


“They’d come after you as the administrator. Your head could be on a plate. Especially if they could prove that you knew Blanchard was incompetent

“Well, I have talked with the superintendent.”

“That’s enough.”

“Maybe not. Let me think about it. It’s like butting your head against a wall.”

“I know, and it’s your head.”

• • •

Later that afternoon Cecil Dunn went to the guidance office where he found Fred Blanchard thumbing through a stack of computer test scores.

“Got a minute?” Cecil asked.

“Sure, what’s up?

“Don Flynn, and some of the other kids too. Sarah and Leslie are concerned about them. They think we could do more to help them.”

Fred nodded as he brushed a speck of lint from the sleeve of his blue blazer. “You know what Donnie needs don’t you?”

Not this again Cecil thought, although he really liked hearing Blanchard expound his hind legs philosophy since it only confirmed his assessment that the guidance man was as shallow as the Great Salt Lake.

“He needs a good kick in the ass,” Blanchard continued, standing to pull the shade behind his desk as he noticed the sunlight striking Cecil’s face. “Donnie’s big enough, damn it! If he’d only clean Kenny’s clock, just once. That’s all it would take.”

Cecil pretended agreement. “You might be right, Fred, but Don’s just not a kid who’s going to fight back. He’ll run and hide. You know it. We’re not going to get him to fight.”

“Look at this.” Fred pointed at a neat stack of computer paper. “I’ve got to meet with every eighth grader. I don’t have time to work with the normal kids, never mind kids like Donnie. Even the parents of the good kids are driving me crazy. Half of them think their little darlings should be on the college track when they’re really vocational school material. When do I have the time?” The guidance counselor adjusted an empty can of diet soda sitting on a coaster on his desk. “You know,” he said as he continued centering his can, “we’ve got a contract with mental health for kids like Donnie. Why don’t they come up with something? What about your new resource room teacher? Half our tax dollars are going for this special education crap.”

“Have you tried meeting with Donnie’s parents?”

“Yes, matter of fact; I got an appointment with them after school tomorrow. I was going to ask you to sit in.”

Cecil said he’d be there. Then he went back to his office where he wrote the following memo to superintendent of schools Hank Clark:

As you know, Hank, we have some students who have personal and

emotional problems that require attention that we can’t provide

at the school. These children are supposedly served through our

contract with county mental health; however; it is my judgment that

we are not getting adequate services. And it’s a little frightening when

some of these same kids talk of suicide.

(You know about the boy who tried.) We’d be in a bit of hot water

knowing about such cases — as we do! — and if something like that

happened. Perhaps we could take this up at the administrators meeting

on Monday. I look forward to your reply. Thanks! CD

Cecil sent copies of the memo to Fred Blanchard, Leslie Cramer, and Sarah Murray-Marks. He also had one posted in the teachers’ room where he knew it would be ignored by some. Derided by others.

The next morning Superintendent Clark called Cecil to thank him for the memo. He told Cecil that the mental health contract was under review and that they would indeed discuss the whole matter at the next administrators’ meeting.

“Why don’t you send another memo to the guidance counselor and request that he get more involved with some of these disturbed kids?” Clark Suggested.

Neither man held out any hope that Fred would do much. In fact both secretly thought that Fred’s involvement would if anything drive the most desperate kids closer to the edge. But both knew that a paper trail could protect them in the event of the worst.

Later that morning Cecil gave Fred another memo saying that the superintendent had advised that the guidance office take a more active role in working with the most disturbed youth and their parents.

• • •

On the following Wednesday Don’s mother and his Uncle Mac arrived for the meeting in the guidance office. From his office window, Fred watched them depart from a taxi in front of the school. Uncle Mac picked his nose every step of the way up the front walk. As if to teach the slovenly fellow a lesson, Blanchard took a neatly folded handkerchief from his pocket, turned it to avoid soiling the embroidered initials, and began cleaning his own nose at the very moment Mrs. Flynn appeared at the office door.

“Come in,” Blanchard waved his free hand toward two chairs in front of his desk. He purposefully avoided standing up, not wanting to shake hands with the man whom he assumed was Don’s father. “Mr. Dunn will be here in a minute; I’ll give him a buzz.” Blanchard folded the handkerchief with his free hand as he called for Cecil on the school line.

“This is Uncle Mac,” Don’s mother began to explain just as Cecil entered the office. “Don’s father stayed home. He doesn’t know about this meeting.”

The principal shook Mac’s hand. Blanchard stayed behind his desk. He’d never seen the father, but he pictured him at home, hung over on the couch watching television.

“The reason that Don’s father isn’t here, well…” Mrs. Flynn looked at her brother. He gave a nod of encouragement. “The reason is that Donnie’s father has been pretty mean to him lately, ever since the last progress reports” were sent home.”

Mrs. Flynn spoke in a soft, clear, gentle voice. She was heavy, round-faced with small dark eyes. Like her soft blue-flowered dress and her clean, loose-fitting white sweater with blue flowered buttons, her voice seemed somehow just right for her. Cecil thought that she must have been quite beautiful as a girl. He could see that Donnie was a lot like his mother. Too bad he was a boy, he thought.

In spite of her size, her arms and legs were smooth and attractive, as were her hands resting in her lap. Donnie awkwardness must be from his father.

“You see,” the woman continued, “Don’s father isn’t — well — he has some problems and when those reports came, well…” She looked at Mac.

“You tell them,” Mac insisted. But Don’s mother said nothing. They had agreed he would tell the rest.

Fred Blanchard was irritated. He thumbed through the progress reports and found Donnie’s, pushing it across his desk in front of the woman.

She ignored the report; just sat staring softly at Uncle Mac.

He finally spoke. “What my sister wants to tell you is that Donnie’s father gets real upset whenever he thinks Donnie is gonna do better than him. He’s jealous of Donnie, see, and when those reports came in the mail, the father he got hold of ’em, and, well, you know….”

Cecil glanced at the report. It was short as good reports often were. Donnie’s work was above average. Cecil was confused. Blanchard too. He was also beginning to think he could smell something bad and he suspected Uncle Mac. He said something about the heat and got up and cracked the window even though it was cool in the room and cold outside.

Mac finished quickly. “The father beat up on Donnie.” both Mac and Donnie’s mother kept saying the father this, the father that, as if he had no other name. “That’s what he did, and pretty bad too, tellin’ him he ought to quit school and get a job like a real man.”

“You see,” Mrs. Flynn resumed in her quiet way, “Don’s father doesn’t like him when he does too good in school. It started when Donnie got a prize for winning a spelling contest in second grade. Don’s father hasn’t had much education and he doesn’t believe Donnie needs it either.”

“Well, that’s too bad,” Dunn said, thinking it was a stupid thing to say. But what else could he say?

“Have you thought about counseling for your husband?” Blanchard asked as he jotted down a telephone number. “You can call mental health.” He slid the slip across the desk but again she ignored his offer.

“I don’t think Donnie’s father would be interested in mental health,” she said unawares. “He’s out of work, you know.” Mrs. Flynn’s voice conveyed meaning far greater than her words.

Her plan was less complicated. “No. All I ask is don’t mail Donnie’s father any more of those progress reports. If you take Donnie’s father off the envelope there won’t be no more trouble. Just my name, that’s all. Donnie’s father won’t open my mail. I’ll see to that.”

It was clear the meeting was over. Fred picked up the progress report and said that nothing more would be sent home to the father. (Now everyone was addressing Donnie’s father as the father.) Cecil concurred, but wondered about the legality of leaving the father out of the picture. Neither administrator said anything about the bullies nor how Donnie refused any help.

Outside the guidance office, Mrs. Flynn and Uncle Mac got their coats from the stand. Cecil watched her fix her scarf. He wondered if Donnie knew about the meeting they had just had. Probably not. Cecil wanted to say something to Mrs. Flynn, but didn’t know what.

As he watched her walk down the front stairs, he thought about a short story he’d read twenty years ago titled: “The Sensual Delights of Fat Women.” He didn’t know why he was having such thoughts. He wasn’t really attracted to Mrs. Flynn. In fact he felt nauseous about the whole meeting.

Still at his desk, Blanchard jotted a note to the custodian: “Rick, please vacuum my office this p.m. Thanks, F.B.”

• • •

The following Monday there was a teachers’ meeting after school. Fred Blanchard presided. He had asked for the meeting to talk with teachers about some of the problem kids. Teachers’ meetings at MJH were usually brief. Teachers arrived at school early and expected to leave within an hour after the final bell, a concession won in collective bargaining.

Blanchard ran down his list of names, offering advice to teachers about how to handle each of the problem kids. He saved Don Flynn for last.

“Donnie’s a good boy. No dummy, but he can’t get along with the other kids, and he’s got some trouble at home.”

Those teachers who were still listening to Fred expected to hear his hind legs theory, but he threw them a curve ball.

“Listen, the next time Donnie’s absent, talk to the other kids in his class and tell them they should treat Donnie better. Tell them that Donnie’s got it rough at home. Don’t be specific; just tell them he’s got a father who doesn’t do much with him… “

It would have been difficult for any of the teachers to be specific since they knew nothing about Don’s home life to begin with.

“And besides,” Blanchard continued, “ask them how they’d like it if they had a father like that?”

Dunn thought Blanchard was at risk of slandering the father. So he stood up in the back of the room — a sign that he wanted Blanchard to finish.

Blanchard realized that he wasn’t making sense, but he had one last piece of advice on his list.

“Just one more thing,” Blanchard brushed something from the sleeve of his blazer, “sit all the kids down and tell them that just because Donnie runs and acts like a girl it doesn’t mean he’s all the way. You know what I mean.”

Of those teachers who were still listening, several weren’t sure what Blanchard did mean. But Sarah Murray-Marks knew. She was about to spit. The Beak!

Cecil knew too, and more certain than ever before that Blanchard was a horse’s ass. Cecil dismissed the meeting.

From the second stall of the boy’s basement Donnie could hear the scraping and shuffling of chairs and feet as the teachers left the room above. He had retreated to the basement immediately after school. He often hid in there until bullies would tire of waiting to pummel him at the edge of the playground as he began his walk home.

Sitting with his pants on in the middle stall, Donnie was daydreaming about Connie when Rick, the custodian, plopped his bucket and mop next to the urinals and began lighting his pipe.

“Git the hell out of here, you little wimp,” Rick snapped, as Donnie zipped his pants and left the stall.

His stomach growled as he walked the quarter mile from school to home where he knew he’d find a plate of warm cookies and a glass of cold milk waiting for him on the kitchen table. There was nothing his mother liked more than making those cookies, and Donnie knew that.

But then he thought about his dad who would be watching TV or sleeping on the couch. He felt an ache in his chest.

In wood shop for Christmas Donnie had made his father a beautiful wooden shield with a silver dollar mounted on it. But a couple weeks later Donnie found the shield on the floor in the back of an upstairs closet. The silver dollar was missing.

Thinking about this made Donnie hurt a lot more than Kenny’s fists, or being called Fag Flynn.



Educator and Activist

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