Ah shit! Why did he have to go and start talking about the saint I was named after. It was bad enough I had a bayman accent and was three inches shorten that any other boy in the classroom.
And of course he went on to pepper what would happen next, by pouring the blood of who I was and where I came from, into the classroom of hungry bullies who operated like a school of sharks who had just caught the scent—except the sharks did it because they were hungry; these school chums were just plain fuckin’ mean.
The great wrap-up by the blind eyed Christian Brother was to explain that I was head of my class in the cove I came from; the entire class chuckled here—my fate was sealed.
My dad had died ten months ago; a month before I turned by tenth birthday. I had left my best friend, all my friends, barely two months before. My cove was no more for me. Back there my school had all grades, people I knew; this school had all boys, all strangers, and now a roomful who knew full well the bayboy was as good as dirt.
Mom had given me a baloney sandwich in a brown paper bag, and an orange. The brown paper bag said it all. No one would be asking to trade what I had in my bag. They had their lunch boxes of Superman, Batman, Spiderman.
All I could do was keep my head down and hope he would not ask me to speak. But the Brothers were all about full cooperation and inclusion. So, I would be expected to cooperate, and my classmates would ensure I was included in the ridicule that baymen were required to receive. Every word, a snicker. The dialect of an imbecile.
Ya, they were waiting as I got two feet outside the school fence. “Hey, Bayman. Show us how smart you are.”
It was a six block walk home. No way I was getting there. Jesus, where was my big sister? She would throw a rock at anyone in the cove picking on me. She was nowhere about.
A push. A shove. Someone tried to trip me. There was nothing to do but turn and take it. And there he was the kid who was a foot above me, arms that could circle around me before they whacked me in the face. I put ‘em up. My fists provided poor defense. The circle laughed.
“You have a girlie name.”
After the first whack, it didn’t hurt so much. That pain was so small compared to the real pain.
The cove was so far away. I would not feel that safety again for a long, long time.