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By Brian Weilert

There he sits in my class,


too-large-for-the-desk Cole

gut spilling onto the flat work surface

pushing his tattered spiral notebook to the far edge

the wafer-thin note book for all classes


the one with anarchy symbols scratched in with the end of an eraserless pencil

chewed into a sharp prison shank


the one with misspelled, incomplete notes from only two classes

until it falls

flapping white-lined wings to the floor

Red faced



he wriggles his blind feet in an effort to retrieve the lost soldier

a few seconds pass and he gives up

To himself he muses,

"Whats the use, wasnt going to use it anyway."

But in a strange way he misses it

his illusionary cover

the facade that actual work is being done

From a distance a pencil scrawling, this class sucks, this class sucks, this class sucks

might appear to be the computation of logarithms

He asks the young girl in front of him if she could retrieve it

wrinkling her nose she quickly recovers the binder and snaps back to the front

Cole smiles

his full cheeks rising

pushing skin

until his eyes disappear into two moon-shaped slits

It is a wonderful smile

Under his breath

a whisper

"Thank you."

he knows

she doesnt want him to speak to her

but his manners get the best of him



Cole seldom raises his hand

verbal outburst

his preferred method of contact


when he does

I see his thick arms are covered

deep burgundy bruises

spread out like ink blot tests

and I read them clearly

I know I should report

what I see

by law I should


Cole would just lie

fearing his father

the meanest man in the county

Deep down

though I would never admit it

I too am afraid

I hear he owns several guns

and I

with a

wife and kids of my own

I know Cole to be quick-witted

but his timing is off

always in the middle of

morning announcements

my lectures

on task discussions


silent sustained reading

always funny

always clever

always intelligent

always in trouble

That was Cole


I liked him

Maybe I saw myself in him

a classic underachiever

a victim of ... something

just not sure what

Back in my day

the day of the paddle

I was a regular recipient


In 2nd grade

I splashed, hard in a mud puddle

not a big deal


it was second after the teacher said,

"Dont step in the puddle."

My defense of,

"It wasnt a step."



5 swats

In 4th grade

I bit a girls neck

not really my fault

a method actor

a vampire

what did you expect

6 swats

In 7th grade

I threw a pencil at my science teacher

I was angry

How was I to know it would stick in his forehead

dangling, loosely like an unlit cigarette on a dry bottom lip.

How often do we hit what we aim for?

The principal did

7 swats

As a Freshman

I broke a kids rib

Not really my fault

He grabbed my wrist as I borrowed his pen

His nails dug in

it hurt and I lashed out unthinking

I remember sitting in the office

I kept thinking to myself

be cool like the Fonz

be cool like the Fonz

be cool like the

Hey, look

back then

the Fonz was cool

be cool like the Fonz

be cool like the

The principal interrupted my mantra

closing his door he removed the W.A.D from the wall

The Weapon of Ass Destruction

Wasnt NATO looking into those?

He looked right at me as he said, "Quit trying to be all cool like the Fonz."




It explained a lot

Freaked me out

still does

8 swats

Same thing at home

My grandpa started it with the words,

"You need to take a stick to that boy."

Mom, the desperate, obedient daughter


willow switches

coat hangers

rolled up magazines

bare hands




on my bare battered buns

and still I didnt listen

hitting me just didnt work

I didnt respond to the stick

I struggled through high school

doing just enough

Lots of three-ring binders

with scattered, fragmented, illegible notes

filled with doodles

Yes, I knew Cole

He would never believe it

but I knew him