12/30/17: The Cruel Years: Fear and Coping with Teenage Reality in 1970s America (Part eighteen, An Uneasy Good Boy)

They were so taken with their own ideas, that they truly believed we would appreciate them as liberators… 

… the smart kids got away with murder, the dumb ones floundered and ate up all the teacher’s and administrators’s time, and the rest of us… ? Well we did what teenagers do, when bored and unsupervised. We explored our options. We looked for, tested and pushed our boundaries. There were very few boundaries at first. We pushed them anyway.


First week of January 1974, I’m waiting for my bus as usual at the end of our driveway. It’s the start of the second semester just after the long holiday season. It’s the dead of winter. The kind of bitter cold I doubt someone who didn’t grow up here could ever could get used to. Must be twenty five degrees below zero… I don’t care. I’m not thinking about the cold.

I’m not thinking about anything specific. Actually, I’m trying to not think at all. Everything sucks! The fun has completely gone out of going to our brand new and modern John Adams Jr. High School. Not because of anything my fourteen-year-old (soon to be fifteen-year-old) brain can bring to my conscious mind. My conscious mind is a jumble. A jumble of things. Some of them one might think should make me happy, others to bring outrage. If I could look at them individually I might see this. But I can’t.

I’ve gotten big. Over six feet tall, and while this might sound like a benefit to a fourteen-year-old riding a bus with a bunch of bullies to a school in chaos… I hardly notice. So much has happened, it’s impossible for my teenage brain to process it all.

John Steiger’s car goes by as usual and nearly ends up in the ditch because of all the ice built up on the gully bridge, but I hardly notice. Gordon Trudeau has pretty much given up trying to get me to join in the “fun” of torturing his little brother with taunts of “Ugly… Ugly…” Just as he and his fellow asshole pro-nazi friends (and all destined for ivy-league futures) have given up trying to include me in their conversations about how superior they are over all the “lesser beings” around them. He barely acknowledges me as I take a seat, being sure to leave an empty one between us.

I’ve gotten so sick of Bruce that it won’t be long (this coming summer actually) till I kick his ass and end that misery. I’m still smarting (psychologically anyway) from last summer when he knocked me cold for something that wasn’t my fault. One of our horses had got away from me. Stacy had probably just left her tied up too long that day and when I went to help untangle her lead, she jerked her head and ran. Bruce started chasing her too. He was in front of me and suddenly turned and punched me square in the jaw.

Fucking asshole.

Keith gets on and takes the seat behind me. Between me and Gordon. I half-listen as he goes on about some shit between he and one of his sisters… or his Dad. I don’t care. Keith will be my friend all through school and even be a groomsman at my first wedding, but some of the joy of our friendship is gone. My hero worship is definitely done. Some of the things he did last summer have really cooled me on Keith. Once at 4H camp, he even called me a pig while we were playing volleyball and I tried to kick his ass but he was too strong for me. He apologized but…

I haven’t put it all together yet (and don’t really have the language) but I’m beginning to feel impressions of how Keith is actually a budding psychopath. He has some twisted tendencies for sure. Some of the things I’ve seen him do to animals… and the way he likes to use guns and explosives, has been working into my consciousness and bothering me. Something is wrong with Keith but I don’t care enough about him to be curious. Rather, I’ve become uninterested.

I stare out the window as he talks. A mumbled cheer from the King’s Park asshole in the back of the bus signal the approach of Buck Anderson’s hot 1967 Mustang from behind the bus. The car roars past, kicking up gravely snow from the freshly plowed shoulder. The punks in back chatter in admiration of the sound of Buck’s well tuned engine. Buck only just got his driver’s license and already has a hot car to drive to school. He’s a year ahead of me. Attending John Marshal High School where I will go next year but Buck will not graduate.

The bus is nearing town now and Danny Bilko is wrapping up his business selling snacks. Back before they shut down the selling of snacks at the now barely fun at all commons, Danny was making a much bigger profit selling individual candy bars and bags of chips from the boxes he’d stolen from the store. No one ever caught him or found out how he got em, but our brand new and modern teachers and administrators simply added closing our snack store to the list of things included in the ongoing clampdown. Now Danny has to buy the boxes of snacks so his prices have gone up.

The clampdown. Heh…

The bigger and more far-reaching schedule changes than the hardly noticed lunch MOD addition (mentioned in a previous post) has been in effect now for almost a year. Students now are limited to only a few MODs in the commons at all. And they must now get their schedule stamped to prove they have actually gone to the resource centers they write in their ever shrinking number of open MODs. This of course has led to Danny Bilko’s far more lucrative stamp trade on the bus. Somehow he got ahold of a stamp for every resource center and an ink pad. Now all students willing to risk it have to do, is pay Danny to stamp their schedule. I’m not quite sure how he works the logistics of the operation but what goes on during the bus ride to school is no doubt just the beginning.

This is also still just the beginning of the changes that will lead to the total clampdown.

The bus arrives at school and the only thing I feel good about, is having once again avoided interacting at all with a stupid bully (I don’t even know his name and he’s one of the last to get on) who has recently started “thwacking” every poor kid he can reach. Thwacking has been a popular bully thing for a while but this asshole has taken it to the extreme of fitting his ring finger with a copper pipe elbow for maximum damage.

If I had any confidence in myself, the good boy in me might have almost been tempted to kick his ass but I’m still not yet even aware of my growing size and strength. But there is more evidence of it. I go into the boy’s restroom on the second floor near our homeroom and find Ricky Speck and one of his big dum thug minions have Bobby Marks spread eagled between two stalls with a pair of handcuffs.

“Find another toilet von Ahsen” Speck barks at me, trying his best to sound menacing. But I’m not in the mood and so I ignore him completely and head for a urinal to piss.

As I pee, Ricky Speck walks over and looks at me. Trying to look as menacing as he just tried to sound. I look him straight in the eye and say nothing and he walks away, back to the business of doing whatever it is he’s doing to Bobby Marks. A punk bully being bullied by a bigger bully who just decided to back down from trying to bully me. Because I was now clearly bigger than him. The inherent cowardice of bullies cold never be more clear in this moment.

Yes, I’m still a good boy. But it does not feel good at all today.

Fortunately, this day will not last forever. Fortunately the benefits of being a good boy and becoming a good man will keep being supported by my father’s good example. Still again… the good and the bad days and my stories of them will continue to be…

To be continued…


By |2018-02-03T20:03:16+00:00December 31st, 2017|Memoirs|Comments Off on 12/30/17: The Cruel Years: Fear and Coping with Teenage Reality in 1970s America (Part eighteen, An Uneasy Good Boy)