As with many people, junior high was not a good experience for me. I was totally at sea socially and lacked the political savvy to do much about it. And Bountiful Junior High was a real hole, a shabby, academically mediocre school attended by lots of druggies and white trash. The only thing that provided me with any escape was Dungeons & Dragons.
At one point, after realizing that males often became popular after they'd gone through puberty and could physically rough up other males, I decided I needed to beat someone up. I hadn’t gone through any dramatic pubescent sprouting of body hair and muscles like some of the guys did, blossoming into cavemen seemingly overnight, but I felt the time had come to make my move.
So who did I pick to beat up? A guy with a gimp arm named David Beattie.
“I’m gonna pound you,” I told him one morning. “Meet me out by the tree after school.” Whenever I subsequently saw him during the day, I made a threatening gesture with my fist, and he scuttled away with an uncomfortable look on his face.
David had one of those malformed arms that looks like a chicken wing, with the hand somewhat bunched together and atrophied. I think on some subconscious level, this handicap really offended me, especially when he would try to use the bad hand to hold a pencil eraser or something. On another level, of course, I simply assumed he would be an easier target for a guy like me.
As the end of school neared, I grew more nervous. I began to consider that David’s good arm looked pretty big and muscular, since he used it more often. What if he used his chicken-wing arm as a shield and his good arm to pound me? He was an overweight guy with a big belly, so what if he swung his weight and knocked me over and sat on me?
When the final bell rang, I was in a classroom up on the second floor of the school’s ancient original portion, so I decided to find a window and see if David was out there by the tree.
Sure enough, he was pacing around under the tree, nervously flexing his gimp arm and watching the front door.
So I just kept watching him, and eventually his mom pulled up in front of the school, and he walked over and got in the car.
The next day at school, he punched me hard on the shoulder and said, “Pussy.”
Is that where it all went wrong? If I had followed through and stood up to David Beattie back in junior high, would that have given me the mojo to get on top of my game later in life, especially in the area of career? Because frankly, I don’t see much difference between school and job…