The Girl in the Red Polyester Pants

The Girl in the Red Polyester Pants.

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The Girl in the Red Polyester Pants

I don’t remember her name. But I’ll never forget her. I see her in my mind. She’s maybe ten years old, the same age I was at the time. Her too round face, her pudgy body, her faded red polyester pants, the same pants she wore every day. She’s a childhood memory I will never forget. She kept to herself, never saying a word. I was new to the school, and, for the first time in my life, I was popular.

If she ever reads this, I hope she forgives me.

My family was poor, and I knew what it was like to be teased and bullied. My clothes were second-hand, never as nice as the other kids’ clothes. I remember wearing shoes a couple of sizes too big, because my parents could not afford a new pair. I had endured the laughter from the other kids when my mother, unable or unwilling to pay a barber, gave me a bad haircut. I knew how the girl in the red polyester pants felt.

But in that school, I was accepted. And it felt good.

For a while, we simply ignored the girl in the red polyester pants. We ate lunch in the cafeteria at our table, while she sat by herself. I heard some kids teasing her one day about her pink free lunch card. Pink cards were for poor kids. A green card meant your parents paid for your lunch. My own card was pink. I was embarrassed for her, but I did not defend her.

Then there was the girl who had everything. Her parents were well-known and respected. She wore the nicest clothes. And, for some reason I never understood, she hated the girl in the red polyester pants. She began teasing her every day. She made her miserable. I remember a day at lunch time when the girl in the red polyester pants remained in class, sitting alone at her desk to escape the daily taunts. I saw her at her desk that day. She looked so sad. I should have defended her. But I chose to be popular.

One day, I was on my way to lunch, walking with a friend, when the girl who had everything stopped us.
“Come on,” she said. “We’re gonna play a little trick.”
The look of malice on her face made me hesitate, but my friend and I followed her anyway. She led us back to the empty classroom.
“What are we doing?” I asked.
She opened the top of her desk, and pulled out a stack of play money. They were her “lucky bucks,” fake money we earned by doing well in class, answering questions correctly, or scoring well on tests. We could spend these on candy and other small prizes.
“Give me yours,” she said.
My friend obeyed, getting his from his desk. I hesitated.
“What for?”
She walked over to the desk belonging to the girl in the red polyester pants, and opened it. She placed the lucky bucks inside. I felt my heart sink.
“Why?” I asked.
The girl who had everything looked at me.
“Because she’s stupid. That’s why.”
I wish I was brave enough to stand up to her, but I wasn’t. I got my lucky bucks and gave them to her. She put them in the desk of the girl in the red polyester pants.

We left the classroom, and returned when lunch was over. I sat at my desk, feeling awful. The girl in the red polyester pants sat quietly, unaware of the “stolen” lucky bucks in her desk. Our teacher was a cranky, older man who never seemed to like us. He sat at his desk while we worked on our own. The girl who had everything got his attention.
“Someone stole my lucky bucks,” She said. If anything, she was a good liar.
The teacher looked up at her.
“What are you saying?” our teacher said.
“My lucky bucks. Someone stole them.”
My friend looked in his desk, then.
“Someone stole mine, too.” He looked expectantly over at me.
I opened my desk. I felt his eyes on me. My ears felt hot.
“Someone stole my lucky bucks, too.” I said.
Our teacher stood up.
“Alright, everyone. Open your desks.”
We all opened our desks, and he stepped forward, walking between the rows of desks scanning the contents of each desk like a drill sergeant inspecting recruits. He looked down into the desk of the girl in the red polyester pants. I held my breath. I felt like I might faint. But he moved on, apparently thinking the pile of lucky bucks in her desk belonged to her. The girl in the red polyester pants stared fearfully down at her desk. She saw the lucky bucks, and knew they weren’t hers.
Maybe she wouldn’t get in trouble. I hoped. Then the girl who had everything spoke up. She pointed at the lucky bucks in the desk of the girl in the red polyester pants.
“Those aren’t hers! She never gets lucky bucks. She’s too stupid.”
I thought for sure she had gone too far, calling her stupid. I thought the teacher would turn on her, but he didn’t. He looked down at the lucky bucks in the desk of the girl in the red polyester pants. Her too round face looked pale. She was staring down at the lucky bucks. Our teacher examined her with a look of distaste.
“Are these yours?” He asked.
The girl in the red polyester pants shook her head. Tears were welling up in her eyes. She looked scared and confused.
“Did you steal them?” Our teacher asked.
She shook her head.
“Yes, she did!” Said the girl who had everything.
The girl in the red polyester pants was openly weeping now.
“I didn’t steal them,” she said. Her voice was low and quiet. It was the first time I heard her say anything.
“Yes, you did!” The girl who had everything said. “You’re stupid and a thief!”
Our teacher looked down at the girl in the red polyester pants.
“Come with me,” he said, grabbing her by the arm.
He led her out of the classroom. She was crying.
I saw a look of triumph on the face of the girl who had everything.

I am still ashamed.

The girl in the red polyester pants never returned to our classroom, and I never saw her again. We heard that her mother had removed her from our school, and I don’t know what happened to her. But I have never forgotten her. I find myself writing about the underdog in many of my stories. Maybe it’s a need to right a wrong, to atone for the way I treated the girl in the red polyester pants.

If you have the time, buy Skyler Floret and the Flourish. I kept the price low for my friends:

Skyler Floret, a teen on the bottom of the pecking order, discovers he has a unique ability. Together, with Corky, a one hundred and sixty year old former slave who is somehow still alive, and Lerna, a woman who sees the future in the stars, he must stop the Man in White, an ancient creature intent on stealing the souls of all mankind. To stop the Man in White, Skyler must beat him at his own game, stealing Flourish, the stuff of energy, life, and souls. Will Skyler save the world, or will he become the very thing he is trying to stop?

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My Wife is a Saint

My wife is a saint.

She is not Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, mind you, was a wonderful, altruistic human being. But she never had to live with someone like me.

My wife does. And she is a saint.

She loves everyone around her. She fills any room she enters with warmth, laughter and playfulness. She cares about the feelings of others. She defends people when others would tear them down.

We are celebrating fifteen years of marriage. For those years, she has been a light to me in dark places, a friend to me when I felt I had none, putting up with my quirks, embracing my oddities, and praising my mediocre writing.

She sees the good in people when others see the bad. I have never heard her speak ill of anyone, in public or private. She has no desire for greatness, does not need all the trappings of wealth, and could not care less about fame. She is easy to please, slow to anger and long-suffering. Fifteen years long, some might say.

 One may think I am seeing her through rose-colored glasses. I assure you I am not. She truly is all these things, and more.

The world does not deserve her. I do not deserve her. But I am so glad I married her.

I don’t know where I would be without her.

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America then and now

Imagine an early American family, not long-established in the New World. They sit as a family around a campfire by the bank of a river in a lush and beautiful forest. The mother slowly turns a freshly killed deer on a spicket over the fire. The muskets used to hunt the animal lean against a horse-drawn cart. The father has a fishing line in the river, hoping to add fish to the menu, while the children play happily with the family dog nearby.

Suddenly, a modern-day police car pulls up. Exiting the vehicle, the stern-looking officer demands identification from the father and mother, who are unable to comply, because, of course, they have none. The officer radios for assistance, and the Border Patrol soon arrives, questioning them about their right to be in the New World. Officers from the Department of Fish and Game arrive as well. They see the deer carcass and confiscate it, demanding who shot it. When the father admits to it, they arrest him for shooting a deer out of season. They also confiscate his fishing pole, and cite him for fishing without a license. The stern-looking police officer then inquires about the horse-drawn cart. Is it registered? Does the driver of the cart have a license to drive it? The father, now in handcuffs, says he never heard of such a thing as a license and registration. He is cited, and a tow truck is called to impound the vehicle.

Animal control arrives to take the horses. They also take the dog from the now crying children, because the dog was also not licensed. The officer then turns his attention to the loaded muskets. Are they licensed? Does the father have a permit to carry a loaded weapon? The father shakes his head in confusion, as the officer charges him with a felony weapons charge. Being that the children had been playing near the loaded, unsecured weapons, the police officer notifies Child Protective Services. Due to the fact that the father is under arrest for two felonies, and the mother failed to protect her children from the dangerous weapons, and a criminal father, they take the children into protective custody. Their mother, desperate to stop strangers from taking her children, rushes toward the officer, who slams her to the ground and sprays her with pepper spray. She is arrested for battery on a peace officer, a felony.

All that remains is a faltering fire.


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America then and now

America then and now.

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