In high school, they used to call him maggot face
because of his ruddy cratered complexion.
As if he could help it. Those bastards.
And that was for starters.
But some of us saw the person,
saw him withdraw.
No smile, low hesitant voice, averted eyes.
And the locker he picked, down at the hall’s end.
He was one of the few in class who paid attention,
and he quietly beat them all out, to the very top.
That is when they started
with more vitriol and gang mentality,
calling him “number one”
and bowing before him in mockery.
You know, now I am so ashamed
that we, the fence sitters,
the best we could do
was not to participate in Charlie’s spiritual flogging.
Even the teachers offered only the occasional reprimand
to the unholy clowns.
One day, our teacher drew a logic problem on the board:
a series of buckets, each connected to the other
in some way. About twenty of them.
There was chittering going on,
everybody wondering what she was doing.
Then she said “if I poured water into the top cup
which one of the others would fill up first?”
“Let’s have a show of hands if you have the answer.”
Nearly everyone thought it was simple,
and waved their arms excitedly.
Everyone except we few and Charlie.
Of course, none were as smart as they thought they were.
The teacher said
“there were five of you who didn’t put up their hands. Why?”
We looked towards Charlie, told him to get up there.
He knew, and the teacher asked why he hadn’t come up before.
Charlie said “I wanted to give everybody else a chance.”
That afternoon, Charlie didn’t make it home
before he was down and bloodied.
And we wonder why things “happen”. Happen.