Thursday, February 7, 2008

Galloway Breaks Down

(I wrote the following eleven years ago while rambling around in my memory)

Starting in fifth grade, the inhumanity and pointless tedium of school began to show. As I think back, most of us kids felt it, but we couldn't define it, and even if we had recognized it for what it was, we were powerless.

It was a private school. We were good boys from middle class two-parent homes where managerial and professional careers were common and where much was provided for, and expected from, the children. I collected cans, bottle tops and tin foil for the war effort. Many families, including ours, had "victory gardens." We didn't know about rebellion. That our parents were well-off, privileged, influential and often arrogant and bigoted was not our business. Our job was school.

On a Friday in February, Tony Galloway broke. He had shown cracks and signs of discontent for months, but on this day, when our home-room teacher called him down for one small infraction -- one more deviation from an imaginary norm -- Tony blew. He got up from his desk, flailing his arms and yelling, "I hate this place and I hate you," and added the equivalent of today's, "I'm up to here with your shit, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"

Tony ran up to Mr. Bergstrom's big oak desk and kicked it hard on his way over to one of the large windows. Still bellowing his objections to the whole school experience, he flung up the sash and prepared to throw himself out.

Our classroom was on the second story of a tall-ceilinged converted victorian mansion. The ground was far below, maybe twenty feet. Tony, still complaining, was alternately crouching inside and lunging his body halfway out the open window, as if practicing for the final suicidal head-first leap.

We were all dumbstruck, and for most of this display, so was Bergstrom. Outbursts like this were simply unheard of in private day schools full of "proper" boys from socially prominent families. We were all relieved when Bergstrom at last had the presence to move quickly on our classmate, grab him wih one hand and close the window with the other. In a moment though, Tony squirmed away and, still yelling, threw the door open, ran out into the hall and down the creaking wooden staircase with Bergstrom running and calling after him.

That's all for today. I'll finish the story tomorrow or when I can, after dental surgery.

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