copyright © 2002 Todd Ristau

by Todd Wm. Ristau

NICK is a high school kid, athletic. He sits in a chair, nervous, he addresses the audience as though they are the principal or a school counselor.

NICK: Hi. I guess you want to talk to me about what happened yesterday. It wasn’t my fault. (pause) I mean, I guess it was my fault that I did what I did, but it wasn’t my fault that what happened happened. Start from the beginning? Well, see, me and the guys-you know, Steve Shannon, Tom Cherry, the other guys from the team, the ones I hang with, we were in the hallway and this kid comes by. Brian. You know, the one they call Cryin’ Brian? Brian Stees. He’s kind of slow, and wears these big black framed pop bottle glasses. He doesn’t talk real well, he, you know uses big words and always acts like he’s some kind of genius, but every body laughs at him, he’s like a joke, you know? We kind of formed a line across the hall so he couldn’t get past, but we just ignored him. So he’s like trying to push his way through us, but he’s too puny to even make us move, we’re like a wall or something. And he starts trying to talk to us and then he’s like saying, "Come on you guys, move, I want to get to class. Why are you doing this? Pay attention to me! Stop ignoring me! We’re all in this together, aren’t we? I mean, we’re all students here!" and we just broke up laughing, and Steve says, "Yeah, that’s right, Brian Buddy, we’re all in this together."

Then everybody starts patting him on the back and saying "Brian Buddy" but they’re like slaps not pats and he’s like "Ow, ow" and then Tom says, come on, Brian Buddy, that shouldn’t hurt. What are you, some kind of panty waist baby? I think you’re a fucking little baby." And Brian says, "Why are you doing this to me?" And Steve says, "Because we fucking hate you." And Brian starts to cry. And then we’re all really laughing at him, you know, and I’m almost crying because I’m laughing so hard at him, because he is really scared, you know? It was really funny.

All these little kids, the underclassmen, they think we’re like giants, you know, like gods or something. Steve says, "Quit crying Baby, you make me want to fucking puke." And Brian cries harder. And we laugh harder. I mean, that’s why I say it wasn’t really our fault, because he was crying. You never cry when someone is picking on you. It’s like a rule. He broke the rule, he was showing us how weak he was. We almost had no choice, you know, and Tom just pushed him and his glasses fell off. Now he can’t even see, and he’s flailing around on the ground trying to find his glasses and bawling his head off. I mean, he’s sixteen years old and he’s acting like he’s only six or something.

We’re all standing around him in a circle and he’s crying and we’re laughing and he starts to get up and Steve hits him. Hits him real hard, right in the face. I stopped laughing, but nobody else did. They laughed harder--and the others started hitting him too.

I mean, what could I do? If I had tried to stop them, they’d have turned on me. I would stop being one of them. So, then I hit him. I didn’t want to hurt Brian. I think he’s a little prick sometimes, but mostly he’s ok. I usually just ignore him. But, there I was kicking him in the stomach and calling him a pussy for crying about getting kicked. If somebody kicked me the last thing I’d do is cry. I’d get up and kick the motherfucker back.

If you think about it, teasing him like that is a way to toughen him up, make him stand up, give him some back bone, which is what he needs. If he doesn’t stand up for himself, he doesn’t deserve to stand up. That’s what my Dad says. One time my Dad was going after me, screaming me down for some stupid thing I’d done, and I said to him, Jesus, Dad, you’re really hurting my feelings. And he said to me, "Well, who exactly has the problem, here? Because I feel just fine."

So, really, who has the problem? Me? Steve? Tom? The other guys on the team? Or Brian? What kind of world would we have if people like Brian think its ok to live like that?

(lights fade out)


This piece came about due to a fracus (sp?) I started, unintentionally, on the joint message board. The issue has been resolved and isn't worth addressing here, but Dan P. Brooks mentioned something his father had told him, and it rung a bell with me. Back around 1989 or so, I'd been commissioned to write a play which would be performed in middle schools, and it dealt with issues relevant to teens. Among them were self esteem problems and one of the characters in that play, Nick, had a father who said things similar to what Dan had mentioned in his post. I went back and found the original notes for the speech this character made in that play and used some of the things which had been said on the message board to fill it out. In the original play Nick's speech was about a paragraph long. I think this expanded version works really well as a stand alone No Shame piece, and I hope that Dan and Neil don't mind my lifting a line each from their posts to incorporate in this piece. It really isn't about the message board postings, they just reminded me about something I'd cared about for a long time, and Dan's Dad's line and Neil's post heading were better than anything I would have thought of on my own.

Thanks, Guys--for the lines, and the inspiration to rework this old piece.

And also thanks to Brandon, because I am way too old to be playing a High School Kid. Nice to have a real one around when you need one.

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