The Summer of '62; Episode 59

Crushed

The next day Rich was called out of study hall to Mr. Hatton’s office. He was the Dean of Boys and married to Rich's mom's sister.
No one in school knew of the relationship. He nor Rich wanted it not to appear that any sort of special treatment would ever be suspected.
Within the family he was Uncle Oscar to Rich. He was a quiet man, built like a short stack of bricks and always seemed to wear a nervous smile.
Rich tapped lightly on the closed door to Uncle Oscar’s office.
Come in,” Uncle Oscar said in his distinctively nasally voice.
Rich walked in.
Leave the door open and have a seat,” Uncle Oscar said extending his hand toward a chair in front of his desk.
He had a small and cramped office. Shelves were behind him crammed with folders, binders, and catalogs from nearly every college within two hundred and fifty miles.
He sat uncomfortably upright and rested his hands on the arms of his chair.
How’s things going this year?” Uncle Oscar said.
Pretty good,” Rich said trying to assure him.
Having any trouble in any of your classes?” Uncle Oscar said.
Algebra,” Rich said.
If you need some help come over sometime. I used to teach it,” Uncle Oscar said.
Thanks,” Rich said. “I just might take you up on that.”
Uncle Oscar leaned forward, rested his elbows on his desk and clasp his hands together. “I’m going to get to the point. If ya beat around the bush ya only get dust,” he said with a nervous titter. “I want the dirt,” he said sternly but hushed. “How are things going with Mr. Carpenter?”
Suspiciously, Rich I looked at him for some further indication in his demeanor as to what matter he was attempting to speak. Nothing was indicated other than he leaned forward and spoke somewhat quieter as if he wanted the conversation to be private, but on the other hand he told Rich to allow the door to remain open.
Rich quickly thought, “of all the people I know I trust him most.”
Thus, Rich explained everything to him in detail.
Uncle Oscar appeared disturbed, but careful not to vocalize his disappointment in Mr. Carpenter’s position.
When leaving his office Rich glanced toward the principal's office. He saw only the back of the leg of Mr. Carter, the principal, entering his office. Rich thought, “he was in the hallway and eve’s dropping on the entire conversation.”
The next morning during announcements over the PA system Mr. Carter rattled the microphone and announced, “No teacher, coach, or anyone employed by this school is allowed to induce, coerce, or suggest in any way, shape, or form that students are not to communicate with other students. This even goes for me. Thank you. Now have a good day and study hard.”
The next few days at school Rich received some nods and greetings from football players, but no conversations. Their sympathetic eyes were enough to sustain him. He desperately wanted to make peace with Mr. Carpenter. He made a couple attempts at a conversation with him. If he did not outright ignore Rich he gave only “yes” and “no” responses.
After an opening victory the football team lost two in a row and a gloom fell over the school. A third loss was inevitable because the opponent was a state ranked team. The game was a brutal loss, 48 to 6. Suddenly no one was talking to the players or Mr. Carpenter. Rich secretly felt elated.
During that week following the loss Lori Carpenter came to Rich's locker. Her face was stiff and angry. “Before you get on the bus today I want to talk to you privately” she said curtly.
Rich raised his eyebrows and looked at the others around his locker. He was uncomfortable.
Sure.” Rich said, “Where?”
At my locker,” Lori said and with a flip of the head and hair tramped away.
At the end of the day Rich found Lori alone at her locker. She was biting her lips to refrain them from quivering. “You have destroyed my father,” she said quietly with as much force as possible.
Rich responded by shaking his head and saying softly, “No, no. I would never do that to your dad. What goes on between your dad and I has nothing to do with how I feel about you. You’re my friend. And I really like your dad. I always thought of him as a friend and someone to look up to.”
A friend wouldn’t hang a dress on his locker and make crude vulgar remarks,” she turned away holding back her tears.
Rich moved to stand in front of her and she said, “I trusted you. How did you get my dress any way. Did you steal it off the cloths line?”
Now it was Rich's lip that was quivering. “That dress was hung there by your dad to embarrass me; at least that’s what Larry Coleman told me.”
Liar,” Lori said defiantly.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Rich muttered so that only she heard and he walked away.
I hate you,” Lori said as Rich passed.
Rich continued walking.
The next day Lori was not at school.
Rich went to the game Friday night and watched a 12-0 lead in the first half evaporate into a 20-12 loss.
The dance after the game was uneventful and lackluster due to the loss.
Rich sat on the bleachers in the gym as the music played. He watched others dance. He looked across the floor and noticed Jenny Chandler standing alone. She appeared sad.
Rich had a crush on her off and on for two years and always wondered if the feelings were mutual. He was to shy to initiate a conversation with her. The conversations were always happenstance, although Rich was able to orchestrate some. There was something mysterious about her; a hidden beauty behind the strands of brittle brunette hair and an unpolished appearance.
Rich summoned the courage and approached Jenny.
Hey, Jenny. How ya doin’?” Rich said feeling awkward .
She smiled and pretended to be interested in watching the others dance. “I’m okay.”
Rich wanted to ask her something important. He was emotionally and mentally geared and nothing short of a building collapse was going to prevent him.
Would you go to the homecoming with me?” Rich asked feeling like a beggar.
She smiled quickly and nervously, “I’d really like to but I think someone else is going to ask me.” Then she looked away.
Rich looked down at the floor. He was motionless and crushed. “It would have been better if she just said no,” he thought. “What do I say? What do I do?”
Rich was stunned and hurt. He tried to swallow, but could not. He took a deep breath to harness all his negative emotions.
Would you like to dance?” Rich asked.
No thank you,” Jenny said with that quick nervous smile and looked away.
Rich walked away working his way through small clusters of students. No one spoke or noticed him. He was dead inside. He felt as though his days were over at school. “I am a pariah. And I want it to feel sorry for myself. That's what feels best.” And Rich began to bathe in it.

Rich called his mom and picked him up 20 minutes later.