Monday, June 9, 2014

Blueberry Shortcake - The Legend of Bill

"Blueberry Shortcake - The Legend of Bill" is an excerpt from the eBook 
Life Bits and Other Chunks: Memoirs of an untrained man by Stephen L. Wilson.
Available at Smashwords, Amazon and Nook. All rights reserved.  © 2013.

When I was twelve, I had a neighbor, whom I will call “Bill”. We were in seventh grade when we met. Now, mind you, this kid had qualities about him to be proud of, to be sure. Unfortunately, his qualities plagued him to a fault.
An example would be his honesty. One time his brother kicked him in his ear. Apparently, the brother’s toenails were so long that Bill had a noticeable gash in his ear. When I saw it, I knew the kids at school would tease him, so I told him to make up a story.
When we boarded the school bus, one of my more obnoxious friends asked Bill what had happened. Poor honest Bill actually told the truth! Being twelve years old and wanting to make an impression on our upperclassmen in Jr. High, this sort of embarrassing revelation was a socially fatal mistake.
All I could do was shake my head. That’s how it was with Bill. Sometimes he would say or do things so socially damning and sometimes even repulsive, that it was embarrassing to know him.
Now, don’t get me wrong. He had enough qualities to be an interesting fellow. As an example, he was a smart kid; always on the honor roll. He had a wealth of knowledge in several areas. Again, however, his quality overwhelmed his social skills. He had such a matter –of-fact, know-it-all way of putting things that he easily irritated people.
All of this was going on during a time when this poor kid was in first-stage adolescence. His athleticism was dormant, marred by un-coordination. He developed gradually from seventh through ninth grade, but the transition was, as mentioned, gradual.
I was a bit more athletic. Having played seventh grade ‘B’ squad and eighth grade being a starter, when ninth grade came along and I was finally an upperclassman, I somehow persuaded ol’ Bill to join the football team.
 Mind you, this was not unwarranted. When we played at home, Bill could easily outrun me, though his style was all his own, to be nice. He could also kick the laces off of the ball. Since he was full of knees and elbows, he was tough to tackle. In all, I figured this would be a social progression for him and it was a way I could show my camaraderie by introducing him to a positive way to rub elbows with ninth grades’ upper echelon.
 Looking back, Bill probably thought the same. I mean, now that we were in ninth grade, he would have a chance to show off his varsity uniform on game day: A true social gold star.
I should have known better. During the first day of practice, he was involved in a time-honored ritual, probably practiced among young adolescents still. What happens is one teammate gets down on his hands and knees behind someone while perpetrator two engages the suspect in conversation. When perp one is ready, perp two pushes the suspect. What results is comical humiliation at the expense of the subject.
 Bill must have been pushed four times or more that day.
Though I didn’t laugh, I knew better than to disrupt the fate of the issuing of this time-honored tradition. It was pure bad luck. I’ll give him credit. He endured weeks of various versions of time-honored traditions, many of which I suspect were only spur-of-the-moment honored traditions.
At any rate, he was anxious for game day to arrive. He had earned a starting spot on our special-teams squad! I was impressed by his determination. I said as much to him the night before game day. As for Bill, he was confident, and I couldn’t help feeling a bit of pride under the circumstances. After all, most of the people on the team felt the way I did and pretty much accepted him, despite and because of his ridicule.
 At the bus stop the next day, Bill seemed troubled. I asked him what was wrong. He said that something had happened to his uniform. At first, I thought he meant he’d lost it. I couldn’t believe it. Our colors were blue and gold. The jerseys were bright yellow with royal blue numbers. The pants were snowy white; definitely and obviously snappier than our practice pants. How could he possibly have lost it?
He told me that it was worse than that. He still had his uniform, but his mom messed up his pants in the laundry. Upon request, he opened his duffel bag and I peered in. Instead of a dazzling display of bleached white pants, what stared back was a pair of pants stained the most brilliant indigo I have ever seen! I had never felt so bad for the man as I did at that moment. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that this qualified him for entry to the next level of ridicule. In fact, this would probably signify him a ridicule legend. What I most likely said was, "Oh, man!"
All day long, as we strutted our stuff in our varsity, game-day jerseys, we both obviously knew about his pants. I didn’t mention it to anyone, but it weighed heavy on my mind all day.
Bill, as it turned out, appeared in no way bothered; in fact, he was on cloud nine. For one whole school day, his jersey entitled him to hang out with anyone else who was wearing one. He could nod towards a fellow player, and they dutifully nodded back. In public. Even in front of girls. He was one of the gang.
In the locker room after school, I noticed him begin to worry. Our first game was at home. People who knew us would be watching. I knew he was headed for trouble the instant he put on his pants. Everyone else had new, unstained, bright pants. Bill stood out embarrassingly.
I had an inkling that whatever came next would probably be funny, and I was trying to steel myself against it in support of Bill.
Right then, someone shouted out, "Hey! Check out Blueberry Shortcake!"
I couldn’t help it. I had a headache for ten minutes from trying to hold back an onslaught of uncontrollable snorts. From that point on, the situation was hopeless. They respected him enough not to verbally embarrass him in front of the home crowd, but the locker room retorts were plentiful. They couldn’t resist. Even the coach bellowed, "Boy! What the hell didjya do to your britches?"
As for Bill, he never finished the season. I can’t say as I blame him. I haven’t seen him in years, but every time I think of him, I just shake my head.

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