Lunch Bell

I was going to draw a picture for you all on my brand new copy of Adobe Illustrator during my lunch break today, but this memory came to me instead.

I was a good kid, really. Usually very nice to other kids but a few times I fell for what my dad described as a test of the “pecking order” or what social scientists called a “dominance hierarchy.” I never led the trend, but sometimes I just wasn’t mature enough to break out of it. Most incidents I remember happened at lunchtime in grade school.

The school had tennis courts behind it, and the back of the court backed up to a hill. A very, very short hill I realized when I took my husband to see where I’d spent my days between ages 5 and 13. One day in sixth grade, about ten of us were competing to see who could do a running climb up the back wall of the court and then jump down over the back. We all successfully vaulted it a few times except for one of the boys who was too scared. Finally, the other boys convinced him to let them help him get up there. But once he got up there he was too scared to come down. (Where on earth were the playground monitors, anyway? It was a stupid stunt. And they were certainly paying attention when we were doing less dangerous things, like refilling our milk cartons with spit and half chewed food.) Anyway, as we were trying to convince him to jump down, the bell rang, ending the lunch period. So we left him there because it was against the rules to climb that wall and we knew we’d get in trouble.

We got back into the classroom and the teacher asked, “Where’s Tony?” No one answered. She asked various kids, and each one said, “I don’t know.” So she went to the window, which faced the playground, and saw Tony crying on the tennis court wall. We all watched as the janitor rescued him with a ladder. He wouldn’t tell why he’d done it and we weren’t telling. The worst part was that later that year those same boys convinced Tony that it wasn’t true that your tongue would stick to a frozen pole and got him to lick the monkey bars. It is. (I did not participate that time but of course I knew who had.) Once again Tony was the good victim and didn’t tell after they left him there when the final lunch bell rang. There was a long history of this for Tony – in third grade he’d missed out on the welcome-home assembly for our local survivor of the TWA Flight 847 hostage crisis because he’d agreed to let Russell lock him to his desk with handcuffs (for which of course he had no key).

I often wonder what happened to Tony, but out of everyone who was in my grade school classes, he’s the only one whose last name I can’t remember. I can only remember that his friends called him “Tony Tony Bologna Face” and I’m sure that’s not right.


One response to “Lunch Bell

  1. I hate recalling any sort of childhood “dominance games” I participated in. Like you, I was always on the periphery, but even as a kid you know that doesn’t really excuse you. It still makes me feel ashamed.

    I have a few kids from childhood I wonder about too. One girl, who was often an unfortunate target for others, I know now holds a very high position in the FBI.

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