Yesterday's Magazette

9 – Bad Seed

Bad Seed

YMBadSeed


By Richard Ong

Mr. Gardner carefully scrutinized the upturned faces of all the boys in his Grade Nine gym class. It was the second of September and “Day One” of the school year in the summer of 1980.

“All right class,” Mr. G (as we called him) addressed our sizeable group of eighteen, “Let us all do some stretches for the next five minutes. Come on now. Don’t dawdle. We have a lot to do in the next hour. So warm up. That’s it. Feel your muscles loosening up. Good. Good. Now, I’m going to start calling out your names and quickly go through the attendance … Marty?”

“Sir.”

“Francis?”

“Here.”

“Samuel? Samuel?”

“S-sir! Here, sir!” Samuel rushed from the changing room, pulling on his shirt. “Sorry, sir. Bus was late.” A few snickers went through the group.

“Alrighty, then. Join the group. We’re doing some stretches right now.” Mr. G continued on through the list. “Kenny?”

“Yo!” A tall, lanky kid with tattoos on his arms and shoulder-length hair that covered his eyes evilly grinned across all the young faces staring at him. Kenny was at least a year older than all the rest. Either he started out late in school or he failed a grade. My gut feeling told me he failed the grade. The insolent look he gave Mr. G confirmed it.

“Richard?”

I took a deep breath and said out loud, “SIR!” I heard a chuckle from my left. Kenny didn’t even bother to stifle his laugh. I frowned in his direction and he smiled and wagged his finger as a warning. At that moment, I knew that I was going to hate this class. Kenny had my number.

After the attendance, Mr. G made us all stand up and start a stationary jog from where we stood. Our shoes pounded loudly in the gym in a cacophony that nearly drowned out all other sounds. Mr. G had to yell hard twice to tell us to stop.

“Good. Now we’re all going to step outside onto the track and I want you all to organize yourselves as best you can behind the starting line. Let’s go!”

We all burst out of the building and quickly lined up along the track. I found myself in the middle of line number five behind Quigley. Kenny elbowed his way through the masses and pushed Francis over to stand at my left.

Oh crap, I thought. What does this moron want with me now?

Kenny gave me a toothy grin. He was a head taller than I was. How old was this guy anyway? Sixteen? Seventeen? What the hell was he still doing in Grade Nine? Kenny flexed his right arm while a little mouse rolled up and down from inside his biceps, undulating the dragon tattoo like a serpent belly dancer. “You like it?” he asked me.

“Not really,” I said, trying to ignore him.

“You should. Dragons are great. They’ve got power. I work out a lot, you know.”

“I’m happy for you, Kenny.” I was getting sweaty and edgy. I wished that we could get started right away. I’d run so fast and make this joker eat my dust.

“You don’t like me, do you?” Kenny pressed on his big-jerk-on-campus routine.

“I hardly know you,” I said.

“Do you like drugs? I got me a stash full of ’em in my locker. Come by the pool after class and I’ll introduce you to my friends.” His confession explained the foul breath I smelled in his direction.

I really wished Mr. G would tell us to start already. What was the delay?

“Kenny, I don’t want any of your dirty drugs. I definitely would not want to meet any of your friends. And Kenny?” I turned around, looked up into his acne-infested face and started to say in slow deliberate words, “I don’t give a–”

“Kenny Loman!” Mr. G’s angry voice was like a sharp knife cutting through hot butter. A nervous silence went through the crowd. Kenny stopped in mid-swing, his fist mere inches from my face. We both turned around like puppets to Mr. G and saw Principal McGuinty also making his way towards us.

“Kenny. Mr. McGuinty wishes to speak to you in his office. Now!”

Kenny rolled his eyes upward as if to say, here we go again. He glanced in my direction and smiled, “You got lucky this time, dude. I’ll see you around.” I didn’t trust myself to answer back. I was shaking like a leaf and I was afraid that my voice would betray me. With that, he slowly turned around and made his way to the principal’s office accompanied by Mr. G. Gym was cancelled for the rest of the day.

We later learned that Kenny had been expelled from school and charged with multiple counts of possession and trafficking of marijuana. It appeared that he had been doing this sort of stuff since eighth grade, but it wasn’t until he first entered Grade 9 that he began running around with a really bad crowd from another school. He’d been in and out of junior high since then.

Somehow, I knew that this wasn’t over. Kenny would be back to torment another gym class in another school next year. I hoped never to bump into him in the neighborhood. I hoped never to meet another Kenny Loman again.

[*Every kid in school has a few close encounters with class bullies with the proverbial “Big Man on Campus” syndrome. For a young, skinny teenage boy who was a new immigrant to North America, this was a very harrowing experience.]

Vol. 36 No. 3 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Fall – 2009

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