I was not having a good morning. I was in fourth grade, I was in the principal’s office — and so were my parents. They’d been called in because of an incident that had taken place on the playground before the first bell. I had kicked Mike Donahue in the head.
Mike and I had never gotten along. I can’t remember why, exactly. We just didn’t like each other. He lived about three blocks from my house and about two blocks from school. Here’s our class photo. Mike is in the second row, third from the left, with the dark sweater and white shirt. I’m in the front row, next to the teacher.
It wasn’t a particularly hard or vicious kick, but Mike made the most of it. He went crying home. His parents rushed him back to the school, stormed the principal’s office and demanded that something be done about the bully — about me.
The principal called my parents. I was dragged out of class. And here we all were. There was no way this could turn out well.
The principal asked me if I had kicked Mike in the head. I said, “Yes.” She asked me why. I said, softly, “I don’t know.”
My Dad couldn’t figure it out. I was normally the one who got picked on, not the one who did the picking. He asked me why I did it. Again I said, “I don’t know.”
The principal decided to take a new angle. She asked Mike to describe what occurred. He explained that he’d been heading toward the school door when he walked in front of me on the swings.
“Wait a minute,” the principal interrupted. “Roger was on the swings?” Mike confirmed this small detail.
“Roger, were you on the swings?” she asked me. I nodded.
The principal let out a deep sigh. Mike’s parents shook their heads and pulled him into the hallway for a lecture on tattling and being a crybaby and watching where he walked.
The principal apologized to my parents for the inconvenience.
As we left the room, Mom and Dad shook their heads too, but with looks of relief on their faces. Their beloved son wasn’t a thug after all. Dad asked me, “Why didn’t you defend yourself? Why didn’t you say you were on the swings?”
I just shrugged. I had other things on my mind. Like why nobody thought to ask me if I had been swinging at the time.