Saturday, November 30, 2013

Letter to Enter the Haggis

Hey readers (all three of you),
        One of my favorite bands is doing a concept album, songs inspired by stories of fans.  To be considered you have to write them a letter and send it in through the actual post.  I've got a bunch of stories.  I've started with the best one.  This post is just a cut & paste of the letter, more or less.  Read and enjoy it, if you can.

Greetings Men of the Haggis,

            I read and backed your upcoming album on Pledge Music, just as I did your Modest Revolution on Kickstarter earlier in 2013.  I guess you could say I’m a fan.  When I read about the concept for this album, I was intrigued.  Some people live nice successful lives with few headaches.  I wonder what that’s like sometimes.  I live a strange and varied existence, which results in lots of ups and downs, and many great stories.  I figured I’d share one with you (or maybe a few in separate letters) and maybe inspire something for the next album.

            The first consciously brave thing I ever did, I did as a senior in high school.  If I was brave before then, I either wasn’t aware of it, or had no choice.  Kids’ lives, and even teens’ lives, are an odd mixture of doing what you’re told and what you can get away with.  A lot of things happen accidentally, or due to the designs of others.  I don’t think behavior of merit that happens that way, because it was either chance or someone else’s idea.

            As a senior in high school, your nerd narrator had a full course load plus two classes.  The class that this story takes place is AP History, the kind of class that is more intense than normal, and might be turned into college credits if you make the proper grade.  It was a strenuous class for high school.  We had a research project every quarter.  We read multiple books in addition to the text.  The exams were hard.  The teacher was a pompous ass.

            I’ve met and studied under a lot of teachers.  Most of them genuinely care about the students or the material, sometimes both.  Some are burn-outs who just sort of show up to get paid.  Some wish they were doing something else, and it shows.  And, every once in a while, you run into a good teacher, who is a terrible person.

            Mr. M. (because I don’t want you sued, not because I’m afraid to name names) was a bully and, I’m pretty sure, a closet drunk.  He was loud.  He could be insulting.  He played favorites in class.  But normally the outbursts were short, and the insults were just clichéd enough to be forgotten once class ended.  A couple of people were shaken up by this jerk in the early months of the year, but learned to fly under the radar in short order.  One of them sat next to me in class.  We hated Mr. M. together, because we were there to learn, and he made it harder by making us feel small.  My best friend (let’s call her Kay, not her real name) was also in that class.  Kay was smart and polite enough to never be the object of ridicule, and so wasn’t toughened up in the early going like some of us.  And then, one day, after months of great work and near perfect attendance, she forgot her notebook before going to class.

            Mister M. was enraged by this.  His face went scarlet.  His voice rose, far beyond shouting and into some sort of decibel warfare.  He accused Kay of some pretty awful things.  And if it had just been an outburst, a sentence or two, I think she would have coped.  But he kept going.  I watched my best friend get closer and closer to tears as one minute of abuse became two, and almost three.  I remember being hot, and uncomfortable, and angry at first.  I remember literally thinking, he’ll stop in a second, and it’ll be over.  When he didn’t stop, but instead began to get coarser and impossibly louder, I thought, surely someone will step in soon, but then I looked around and realized no one was.

            What happened next was my first brave thing, and I remember precious little of it.  I popped out of my chair.  It was one of those one piece desk things, with the table bolted to the chair.  I had been unconsciously heaving the top away from me as I got angrier and more uncomfortable.  When I rose to intervene, the arm of the desk snapped back into place as I released it, and the desk tottered before it steadied.  I remember pointing at Mr. M.  I remember shouting back, but I don’t remember any of the words.  The gist of it was, either he would shut his mouth and leave voluntarily, or I would shut it for him and drag him out of class.  Later, other classmates told me I had threatened to kill him.  I don’t remember that part, but if they say it happened, I believe it.

            Obviously, I hadn’t thought it through.  I could have been suspended, or he could have fought me.  I might have won, I was a little taller and thirty years younger, while he was bigger and stronger.  I didn’t care about the consequences to me, which was the main thing.  I was coming to a rescue, and succeeded.  Nothing else mattered.

            I remember everything after that with reasonable clarity.  I saw his rage sweep from her to me.  I was absolutely ready for it.  When I said whatever it was, he stormed out of the class intent on telling the principal.  About a minute after he’d left, I worked out that he couldn’t do that without revealing his part in things.  Kay was shaken, but safe.  I sat back down, my heartbeat slowing back to its normal tempo.  The room was eerily silent until the bell rang ten minutes later.  We had class the next day, a strained facsimile of normal.  That Friday, I was the last person to leave class.  I don’t know if I was still being protective or just had more things to gather together that day.  The asshat apologized to me.  I called him stupid to his face.  I said Kay was the one who needed the apology, not me.  The look on his face told me he hadn’t even thought of that.  There really are some terrible people out there.


                                                                        That’s my story, and it happened just that way,

                                                                                   Kevin S. Mahoney

                                                                                    @TheSagest on Twitter

  • Yes, you can throw me a comment either here, on twitter, or the e-mail I listed.  I enjoy hearing people talk about my writing.
  • No, I'm not tweeting @enterthehaggis a link to this.  My letter will go in the mail Monday instead.  That doesn't mean you can't do it for me, oh anonymous internet person.
  • Yes, I know I kinda blew off finishing my novel this month.  I apologize to the universe for neglecting both it and this blog.

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