Another year gone

DB Crouper

Active member
Chapter 6

In small towns, rumors account for a large segment of local entertainment. It was like the circus, the Harlem Globetrotters, Portland wrestling, and the Miss Oregon Pageant all descended on our little town at the same time. Rumors ran rampant through the streets and alleys, faster and more reckless than Mario Andretti. Since we didn't see Billy or Miss Furney for a couple weeks, we favored the rumor dejour that she had caught up with Billy as he was crossing the 4th Avenue bridge,attempted to swing him by an arm in a vicious arc over the railing, but Billy managed to attain a desperate vice like grip on her arms. As he cleared the rail, and was suspended over the river below, he placed both feet squarely on the water side of the 6x6 top rail, knees bent, and, like a weightlifter squatting 4 times his own weight, extended his legs, tightened his grip on Miss Furney, and the two of them. spinning slowly, descended to a watery grave, neither willing to loosen their grip, to save themselves or help the other. It was a good rumor. For only being in the first grade, we had already learned about pathos, tragedy, the conflict of good versus evil, imagery, and imagination. I must admit that the image of Billy and Miss Furney locked in a death grip, being eaten by crabs and bullheads, on the muddy bottom of the Necanicum River taught me about nightmares as well.
As with most rumors, this one turned out to be less than totally true, but I still worry about the fate of Miss Furney. Billy, however, strolled into our classroom a couple weeks after his escape, carrying a cigar box under one arm and a fish bowl, with an orange goldfish, under the other. He solemnly presented the cigar box full of silver dollars and the goldfish to the rightful owners, bowed his head, and quite convincingly said, "I'm very sorry." Our 3rd teacher of our third week in the first grade smiled eloquently at Billy, and directed him to his desk, directly behind mine.
Our new teacher wasn't pretty like Miss Peronin, wasn't old like Miss Furney, but may have been mentored by her. Miss Homm was large and shapeless, but actually seemed to like small children. She had a gentle disposition, a ready smile, and a modicum of patience with all of us. We liked her because she liked us, and the return of Billy was worrisome. His war, if he wanted one, was going to be one against 24 children, and Miss Homm.
Billy actually behaved for about a week, but I knew it was wearing on him. As I sat directly in front of him, I began to hear strange and alien mumbling and incantations barely loud enough to notice. With each passing day Billy's desperate efforts to conform increased in frequency and volume. Miss Homm had to hear him, but made her own monumental effort to ignore his increasing subterfuge of her classroom. The inevitable collision of Billy against the world escalated rather quickly. I heard it first, being nearest to him. A soft melodic voice from behind me crooned, "Miss Homm the atom bomb", barely audible at first, "Miss Homm the atom bomb", barely louder. "Miss Homm the atom bomb", now heard by others adjacent to me. "Miss Homm the atom bomb", with each chorus, he turned the volume knob up ever so slightly. At the recess bell, Billy was nearly yelling, "MISS HOMM THE ATOM BOMB"
Miss Homm had us line up and exit the classroom in an orderly manner, and told Billy to stay at his desk. To this day I often wonder what transpired between Billy and Miss Homm,.during that 10 minutes, while we milled around the playground,. What happened during the next 5 minutes, after Billy joined his classmates on the playground, I will never forget.
Pierre Marchbanks, a portly and cheerful child, a friend of everyone, approached Billy, and without warning, landed a thunderous punch directly to the heretofore pointed nose of Billy, who hit the gravel playground flat on his back. Pierre straddled him and landed several more violent head shots before Mr. Cook, the recess supervisor, could pull him off of an unconscious and bloody Billy. In twelve years of school with Pierre, I never saw another aggressive moment out of him.
Billy was taken away in the same ambulance that transported Miss Perronin a few short weeks earlier. We didn't see Billy again during our 12 years of public school, and of course the rumor was that Pierre killed him, but I no longer put much stock in rumors. I had already seen enough real entertainment to pretty much forego the need for rumors.


I needed to finish the story, because, ironically, I learned at a 50 year high school reunion this last summer, both Billy and Pierre died recently, only days apart. Pierre was felled by cancer, and Billy was beaten to death, in what was described as a case of mistaken identity. Go figure...
RIP Pierre and Billy.

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