Copyright©️2016 R Lawson Gamble. All rights to this work are reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in part or in whole in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author. In this work I describe actual locations and authentic time frames and global events. The characters, however, are fictional and any resemblance to events or persons living or dead, while possible given the nature of this work, is in fact unintentional and largely coincidental.

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Mr. Gardner approached me one day as I was locking my classroom door, my arms full of books, in a hurry to arrive at my afternoon duty. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I was expected to be present in the chaos of the locker room where within that shrill and reverberant space I would encourage children to move into their athletic clothing and on out to their sports fields as speedily as possible. The athletic locker room was just steps away from my music classroom, however the final class period of the day required me to restore a variety of rhythm instruments to their proper storage and simultaneously respond to the inevitable post lesson questions and requests from my students. I was not, as you might imagine, in the frame of mind for a prolonged conversation.

 

The man’s first words, however, demanded my attention. “Mr. Tasker, it is my belief young Connor is being systematically bullied after lights out.”

 

He went on to describe the nightly routine in the Cave where he presided, detailing how the students changed to night-clothes, prepared their laundry, exchanged final words with the master, and then read quietly for the final quarter of an hour before lights out. For the half hour following, Mr. Gardner made unpredictable appearances, sometimes catching an errant youngster out on the floor for which the proper demerits were assigned. Regardless of his attention, however, at rising the following morning he often observed bruises on young Connor’s arms, marks he was quite convinced were not present the night before. Connor refused to respond directly to Mr. Gardner’s questions, brushing away his concerns as unfounded, while claiming the marks came from falling out of bed, or walking into his bureau, or the like.

 

“There is nothing more I can do to increase my vigilance,” Gardner exclaimed to me, in a most exasperated manner. “I must have my rest as well, sufficient to rise at six and perform my morning duties. I don’t see what else I can do.”

 

There was little I could suggest beyond advising him to consult with the dormitory administrator and leave the matter in his capable hands. However, as I hurried on my mind raced. I was not surprised Conner had become the object of bullying. On the contrary, I had seen it as a distinct possibility, yet the difference from surmise to actual knowledge is stark, and in that moment of truth, passivity must pass into exigent responsibility and action.

 

It happened I was scheduled for a lesson with Connor that very evening, and I planned my approach to this very delicate issue, knowing if allowed to do so Conner would certainly prevaricate. My scheme was simple; I would convince Connor his words would travel no further than his mouth to my ear. Bullying relies upon a victim’s fear of retaliation and is sustained by secrecy. I determined to present to him a scenario in which an older student “discovers” the actions of the bully or bullies in question––for in my own mind I was convinced of the latter––and in due course reports the behavior to a master. Thus the rat is seen by these bullies to be an older, much stronger student, upon whom retaliation would be ill advised. Hopefully, then, actions taken by the adult community would lay the matter to rest.

 

So it was at 7:30 that evening, experiencing no little self-satisfaction from my brilliant plan, I awaited Connor’s arrival. I sat and plucked the strings of my guitar, my ear attuned to the stairwell for the familiar thuds and steps of Connor’s descent, my eyes roving frequently toward the open door of my closet studio. I waited for Connor the entire half hour of his scheduled lesson. He never came.

 

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