'DO' Judge A Book by Its Cover

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Most folks fail to realize that a kid can be 'bullied' without the culprit actually 'putting hands on' the victim. Some forms of bullying almost makes the victim wish for a punch to the chest...

Submitted: July 22, 2018

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Submitted: July 22, 2018

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I can at least think of one thing that my junior high did well, in terms of protecting students from bullies, but I think it was done accidently as I look back in retrospect. Study-hall was supposed to be a class for students to get caught up on their work or to – study. In study-hall, no one was allowed to talk or communicate in any way after the bell signals the start of the class, otherwise he or she would find themselves with a definite detention. Because of these strict rules, study-hall became a true refuge for bully victims.  Another rule of Study-hall class was that each student was required to bring a book of some kind to class, and failure to do so was another way to earn a ticket to evening detention. I loved Study-hall; it was my favorite class because, not only was it a sanctuary of safety, but it was also a place where I could get lost in a book without having to worry about being hit in the head with a spitball or being poked between the shoulder blades by someone delivering a verbal message promising me a butt-kicking after school.

 

One of the down-points of study-hall was the fact that bullies often passed threatening notes during this class, but usually that technique was intended solely to assure the bully that his victims still feared him, despite the peaceful look on their victim's face after the words of their book had allowed them to escape to a land without bullies. Usually, if a victim was able to appear ‘scared half to death’ throughout the entire class period, then the bully would spare him any further threats because the victim’s distress will have provided enough satisfaction and amusement for the bully and his friends. 

Study-hall was my 45 minutes of jubilant freedom – free to indulge in an adventurous excursion down the rapids of the Mississippi with Tom and Huck one minute, and then march off with Ponyboy and Sodapop to rumble with Soces the next.

One day in particular, when I was in grade eight, I had just taken my seat in study-hall when someone tapped me lightly on the shoulder. It was Jimetta Crane, and I couldn’t imagine what she could possibly want with me. Jimetta was the type of girl who dressed and carried herself like a women in her mid-twenties, and to someone who had never seen her before, their speculation might be that she had a husband and three children at home, and it would not be an impractical assumption. Jimetta was a plain looking girl with an expressionless face, and I had never once seen her smile.

“Can I borrow your extra book?” Jimetta asked, in a low monotone voice, eyes already on my extra paperback book.

Nothing about Jimetta’s gestures warranted caution on my part, but the mature tone of her voice suggested that I had no choice but to honor her request. Her tone was not ominous, yet for some reason, I got the same sense from her request as I would get from an adult. Jimetta was sixteen years old, and to my sheltered thirteen, she might as well have been an adult. It was ironic because my friend Tippy had just warned me earlier that day against bringing extra books to study-hall class. Tippy told me that an older boy had borrowed one of his extra books, and then threatened to punch him in the face when he asked for it back at the end of study-hall session. I wished that I would have taken Tippy’s advice and deposited my extra books into my locker before study-hall class, but I had been so anxious to get to study-hall – my sanctuary.

 “Sure.” I responded in a timid tone, obediently handing over my copy of ‘One Fat Summer’ to Jimetta.

Immediately I began to worry about what I would do if Jimetta chose not to return my book after class. Unlike my feisty friend Tippy, I knew that I would never have the nerve to ask for my book back at the end of study-hall. Instead of reading that day in study-hall, I spent the entire 45 minutes praying that Jimetta would return my book after class.  At the end of class, she approached me – still without any facial expression - and sat the book atop my desk saying only, ‘Here you go,’ and then walking off. I looked at the cover of the book and determined it to be a fair return, and I slipped it down into my tote bag. (I had literally judged a book by its cover). I was relieved.

Later that day after school, I settled down to do some reading. I went into my tote bag to retrieve my books, and the book that I had loaned Jimetta came tumbling out. As it landed on the floor in front of me, I noticed what appeared to be black markings. I retrieved the book for a closer look, and to my dismay, nearly every page was defaced with scribbling and graffiti, drafted in black magic marker. Not only was the book defaced with markings - it also contained profanity and written obscenities. Every curse word that I had ever heard, as well as a few that I had not, were written within the pages of my borrowed library book. There were also drawings. I stared wide-eyed at Jimetta’s unskilled attempts at sketches of genitalia, trying to figure out what kind of a sociopathic wretch could ever bring themselves to do such a deploring thing. 

My friend Tippy had always criticized me as being one to lock the barn after the horse had already been stolen, and the case involving Jimetta and my library book was no exception. I lay in bed that night, counting the reasons why I should have expected Jimetta to do something just that despicable to me, and it was not a difficult task. My dad often advised me to not judge a person on how they appeared to be. He said that you could miss out on a good person that way, and he said it as if ‘missing out on a good person’ was a regret that one should never invite upon himself if he could possibly avoid it.

In elementary school there was a boy named Marcus, but everyone called him ‘Sweets.’ Sweets was a shady character, even as a young kid. He stole from classmates, cursed, told dirty jokes, and spoke openly of having seen adults sell and use drugs as if it were a normal part of life. Worst of all, he groped girls sexually and would give a sniggle of perverse satisfaction when they expressed protest and resentment. Sweets got into some kind of trouble with the law during the summer before junior high, and the judge sent him to live with his father as an alternative to a juvenile correctional facility.

There was a girl named Flora who rode the same bus as me, and despite the overcrowded school bus, she always had a seat all to herself. She sat on the outer edge of her seat so that no one could sit next to her. Whenever someone dared to ask her to share the seat, she would roll her eyes at them and give them a mean and dirty look, and she never budged – not once. Most of the boys even appeared to be intimidated by Flora - a seventeen year old ninth grader who looked and acted like an angry, hostile grown woman. This may come as no surprise, but Sweets and Flora were Jimetta’s sister and brother, which is the main reason why I should have known better than to think that I would get my library book back in one piece.

In order to pay for the library book, I had to sacrifice two weeks of allowance, collect empty soda cans from everyone I knew, to cash-in for the deposit money, and it consumed every penny in my piggy bank. Could this have happened because I failed to take a better look - judge a book by its cover? Maybe. One thing that I have come to discover in life, is the fact that judging a person by their outward appearance can sometimes be a caveat. True, my father said 'In judging a book by its cover, you could miss out on a good person that way' however, my dad had never lent a library book to Jimetta Crane.

 

 

 

 

 


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