A show of hands

They used to call him maggot face
in high school
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
the locker he picked, down at the hall’s end
but 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 the spiritual flogging
even the teachers offered only
the occasional reprimand
to the unholy clowns

one day, teacher drew a logic problem on the board
a series of buckets, each connected to the other
in some form
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 will of the others will 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 he
and of course none were as smart as they thought
teacher says there were five of you who didn’t put up their hands
we looked towards Charlie, told him to get up there
he knew
teacher says
why didn’t you come up before
Charlie says 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

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