So, where were we? Ah yes. Procrastination.
Seventh grade was chock full of all kinds of nasty shocks for hippie-school me. Doolen Junior High was, i realize now, a pilot program for young inmates who just hadn’t committed any felonies yet. There were guys in the 8th grade who were bused in from South Tucson and who never seemed to be anywhere except the cafeteria where they would slouch against the vending machines and pose such philosophical conundrums as “What’s it worth for me not to kick your ass right now?”
I mean, these guys were huge and mean and there seemed to be an endless supply of them. As the semester proceeded apace, I sensed that they were part of a huge racket designed to intimidate and/or impoverish every kid who had yet to cross the first threshold of puberty. It was Men vs Boys and the men were ruthless. They might not have been full adults, but when your’re 4’11” and slim as a wand, even a middling sized runt with muscles can be mighty intimidating. And some of these guys weren’t runts. I think that a few of the 8th grader might have been as old as 15 or 16. Added to this was the mixed ethnicity of a lot of these young men, exotic and terrifying to a white, white white kid like myself. Chicanos and black kids, mostly, dressed in buttoned-up flannels and khakis or wife-beaters to show off crude tattoos and rippling muscle. A lot of the Chicano guys wore pressed bandanna headbands that almost covered their eyes. In other circumstances it might have been comical, in this case it was pretty terrifying.
Every big guy was teamed with at least one and sometimes two smaller guys. The little guys were the instigators. A typical exchange would involve one of the Juniors slamming into me by the vending machine and yelling in my face, demanding my coke, asking me how much money I had. If I said nothing, there would be this sort of exchange:
HIM: (shoving me) “What you say, man? What you say about my mama?”
ME: “I didn’t say nothing about your mama.”
HIM: (shoving me again, getting up in my face) “You calling me a liar?”
You notice how I used the double negative to try and sound tougher? It didn’t work.
My friend Sullivan perfected a way to make the bullies leave him alone. He pretended to have seizures and would throw himself down, hollering and flailing until they recoiled in horror. As soon as they left he’s open his eyes, get up and continue on his way. I was astounded this worked so well, but work it did. The bullies developed a weird respect for him, as though he was some kind of anointed saint or something. They called him “Loco” and even, once, “Bugs.”
Unfortunately, he stumbled on this technique first, so the rest of us were out of luck. You couldn’t very well have two people pulling that same stunt and expect to get away with it. Besides, the floors at Doolen were pretty nasty, covered with spilled milk and gum and whatnot. You couldn’t choose your battlefield with the Sullivan method, so the writhing inevitably caused him to get pretty stained and soiled. He didn’t have to do it for very long, but it was enough that he probably got in trouble with his mom. She was the kind of mom who bought those clothes with the matching animals–giraffe with giraffe, zebra with zebra. I mean, she did this in seventh grade.
Well, look there. I managed to write an entire post without getting to the procrastination part. I guess this is ironic, but I’ll get to it sometime.