The Grade Seven teacher announced the edict. Any students caught passing or receiving notes in class would stay after school. They would write “I will not pass notes” two hundred times.
Slowly, I turned to the biggest creep in my world and glared at him. Marvin Gobel* held my stare like a starving animal that had fresh food held out to it. He knew the meaning of my silent message.
Marvin had been sending me love notes. The insidious messages of adoration transformed my insides into a state of nausea that blocked rational thought and reason.
I had warned him. I had told him to stop.
This punishment could mean missing baseball practices after school. I needed to declare war. At recess, I waited for him outside.
“Marvin,” I warned, “if you send me one more of your stupid notes, I’ll beat you black and blue.”
Marvin may have perceived my warning to be delightful or darling, but he had no idea of the training that came from growing up with an older brother who was a ruthless and relentless strategist.
The next day in class, as the teacher was writing on the board, I felt Betty’s subtle poke from behind. I ignored her. There was no way I was going to get caught with another person’s lethal note. She slyly slipped it into my armpit. I impatiently plucked it out and saw the address. “For Amy ONLY”. Unmistakeably Marvin’s printing.
The note went into my pocket faster than a spit ball could fly out of the class monster’s mouth. I didn’t care what it said. The matter had to be settled now, this recess. We would be in separate gym classes after recess; then he would take the school bus home to his farm. That meant I could take action and not have to see him until the next day.
During the minutes before recess, I planned my action. I knew the consequences may be dire. My mother taught in the same school, but my determination outweighed my fear. Marvin not only embarrassed me in front of my friends, he had twice ignored my warnings.
The bell rang and I slipped out of the room quickly. I waited in the hallway. I saw him. “Marvin. I want to talk to you. I have a special place that I like to go for serious talks. Come with me.”
Marvin followed eagerly. ‘Duh, what a jerk!’ I thought to myself.
We arrived at the back of the school. An indented fire door with no outside handle provided a perfect place to have some privacy. Kids gathered on grassy fields on the other three sides of the school.
At the nook, I stepped aside and let him go in first. “What did I tell you, Marvin?”
“What? About the notes? Aren’t we here for the kiss? Didn’t you read my last note?”
His words fueled my solid punch to his upper arm. Surprised, his arm flew up and caught me under my chin. Like a firecracker, my anger was released, in every direction. I hit Marvin as hard as I could in whatever spot was available as he bent over, protecting himself.
Perhaps Marvin was being polite about not hitting a girl. Perhaps he really was scared. But all he did was defend himself. I pounded on him as he sank to the cement. Every punch included a string of words that would certainly put me in detention for weeks.
When Marvin began to cry, I decided enough was enough. With a hard kick to his buttocks area, I said, “From now on you leave me alone,” and I ran to get ready for gym class.
I told no one. Certain that he’d tell on me, I began plotting my defense. For some reason, I felt that I was the only one who would have consequences. I would hang on to this last note as evidence even though I couldn’t stand to even look at it.
When mom didn’t mention anything at dinnertime, I knew I was still free for the night at least.
The next day, even though I expected punishment, I was looking forward to seeing how Marvin would behave towards me. Marvin was absent.
Marvin didn’t come the next day either. The teacher said, “Anyone know where Marvin is?” This was a time when few people, even in town, had telephones. A distant niggle crept into my conscience. What if I had hurt him?
On Friday, the teacher said, “Jordan, since you live by Marvin’s place, would you please check with his parents over the weekend and take him some homework? If he’s not back on Monday, I will take a trip to visit his parents.” This was serious. Now I wanted to know what was wrong. Maybe I’d hurt him really bad. There was no way I could ask anybody because then I’d have to confess that I beat him up. Besides, Marvin might hear that I asked about him and he’d start the stupid notes again.
On Friday night, I asked God to make sure Marvin was okay. Saturday morning, I awakened with dread. I decided if I really did my Saturday chores well, maybe that would assure that Marvin would be okay. It didn’t help the knot in my stomach.
By the time I did the last polish on the hardwood floor, I knew I had killed him. Probably the last kick was the critical blow. I was certain there was no blood, but I knew with animals there was all sorts of internal injury that could happen. What would happen to a kid who killed another kid? I was so frightened that I made no fuss on Sunday morning when mom yelled upstairs that it was time to get ready for church. I needed to pray to that pure power that was promised in every sermon. Only God could get me out of this mess.
* Marvin Gobel is not his real name.