The Infamous Monty

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A former juvenile delinquent Graffiti artist finds his voice and fame through his art

Submitted: September 09, 2012

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Submitted: September 09, 2012

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For some, their first day of school isn’t just the first day of school but a new beginning. Their first step through a portal from a life left behind, a world few people wanted to know or would ever know. I watched in quiet observation as Monty entered my class. He was a tall and lean but muscular and according to his records he was 17; a new arrival but from where? Schools often have a way of leaving out some of the details and whether intentional or unintentional, Monty was here.

As Monty walked through the door into the class he never said a word. He sauntered towards the back of the room and sat down. His brown complexion accented his shortly cropped hair and clean shaven face and under his arm was a black book which he placed on the table. He sat in an eerie silence. I took attendance as usual, calling each student by name and recording their response. When I called Monty he looked up at me but said nothing. Monty was different than most of my students. Even though I was teaching at an alternative school and alternative schools do bring out the different, he was more than our usual form of different. He seemed very cautious but thoroughly in control. He knew who he was but he didn’t quite know where he was. He assessed the situation and remained silent.

School is a funny place that brings people together, all sorts of people of different cultures, different backgrounds, and different experiences compressing them all into a small room. Line them up in rows or circles or horseshoes whatever the popular genre of the day and educate them. Most of my students came from somewhere else, tossed aside from their former schools. It was usually accepted that they did not want them to return. They knew who they were, the outcasts, the discarded, those societal misfits that don’t just march to the beat of their own drummer but usually bring along their own band. They knew who they were. For some, they were the bullies. For others, they just couldn’t take mainstream education and then again there were those who just somehow pissed off the teacher who happened to be a close friend of the principal’s and before they knew it they were gone.

Most of my students came because there was nowhere else to go. They enjoyed the free lunch, the company of others, not unlike themselves, and a new breed of teachers who just didn’t seem to follow the same old rules. Schools are funny things, pretty much everybody has been to a school and the large majority of us survived it but few of us really know anything about the workings of the system. We were just there. We followed the flow of the stream through its educational channels and ultimately we arrived at the ocean. As days passed the warm breezes of the summer became the crisp feel of autumn. Monty became familiar with his new surroundings but generally he stayed pretty much to himself. He never participated in anything, did little or no schoolwork and rarely socialized with anybody and that was odd.

This is the school dominated by the extravert, the kid in class that just said one too many things. As I watched Monty in his silence I knew he was thinking something, he always carried that black book. At times it lay open on his desk and it appeared although he was writing something, or drawling, or doodling. He was too far from the front to really tell what was going on but I knew there was something but I just didn’t know what. How could I reach this kid? What would penetrate his seemingly impenetrable barrier? How could I bridge the gap? I was dumbfounded. I always considered myself a good teacher, I was dedicated to my job and to my students but I had hit a wall. A feeling of frustration swelled inside of me, rising to anger, then fading away to despair.

The days passed to months and as the months quickly turned into the holiday season. As in any school, the possibility of being off of school always brought excitement. Everyone was looking forward to the holiday break, it would soon be arriving. Heck, one day when Monty was leaving my room I even think I saw him smile either that or my overzealous wishful thinking had manifested itself into my own personal delusions of my success.

As the seasons changed so did our classroom responsibilities. Done before, but reinitiated, the school district enacted the required “afterschool activity.” Most teachers reacted with a sigh and conjured up something. I fell back on an old classic, art club. I knew it would do the trick. I needed crayons, paper, about one hours of time and I would let them color their hearts out but little did I know.

The following day I made the announcement to my class that starting after the holiday teachers would be offering an afterschool activity. I would be running the art club and we would be meeting on Monday afterschool in room 113 and that anyone interested could attend. There was little to no reaction but I had done my duty and started looking forward to another successful year of teaching.

When we returned from the holiday I gathered my crayons and my paper, placed them neatly in the front of the room and as the bell rang ending that first Monday back from the holiday I sat waiting to see who would arrive for art club. For a moment I thought, well, it looks like a no show but as I sat at my desk correcting papers which I desperately needed to get done I heard a knock on the door and as I looked up there was Monty, tall, lean, and silently standing there with that black book.

“Could I help you?” I asked.

“Yes, do we do art here?” Monty replied.

I looked up and asked, “Monty, you draw?”

He said, in a one word answer that seemed to cover it all, “paint.”

 He then held the book in front of him and said, “want to see?”

 He handed me the black book and as I opened it with an air of cautiousness and anticipation I did not know what to expect. I opened it and it hit me like a cacophony of angels. I finally understood Monty and what he was all about. Pages upon pages of drawings, sketches for murals, ideas, thoughts, words of inspiration, things I never expected. I was mesmerized by the collection in front of me. Obviously, Monty had a lot on his mind and I just found out. From that day forward Monty and I became pretty close and for the next three years he became not only the resident artist but the resident speaker, the class leader, and a politician.

I had learned that Monty had come to me from two years of lockup surviving an outrageous sentence for having performed graffiti all over the city. He had amassed $38,000 in fines. That quite kid in the back of the room, he was infamous. Everyone knew who he was, everyone but me. The police knew him, the mayor knew him, the judge knew him, and 147 people who had received hand written apologizes ordered by the court knew him and now me. Monty went on to paint murals for the community, receiving a 2010 community service award from the United Way. Lehigh University held an honorary ceremony and he again received an award and finally he held his first exhibition shortly after graduation at a local gallery.

Since then he has had several gallery openings and worked on a variety of projects large and small. He has shown his work in New York and throughout the Lehigh Valley and yes Monty went to college, he is now studying architecture. I guess Monty had a lot to say. I guess Monty did have a lot to say.


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