TW: Bullying and sexual harassment
You don’t have to read my first story about this character to understand the new one, and they’re set about twenty years apart. However, if you do want to read the first one I posted, click HERE. In this short excerpt, a middle-aged, pious woman goes all mother bear when she feels her oddball son is being mistreated at school. If anybody reads this, I hope they like it and I’d love to hear what they think! 🙂
Warren came home from school in tears today. He ran up to his room and turned on his music as loudly as it would go without blowing the speakers. When I went into his room, he was lying on the bed crying into his pillow.
“Warren, honey, what’s wrong?”
“N-n-nothing Mom, I’m fine.”
“You know how I hate when you say you’re fine when you’re clearly not fine.” I put my arm around him.
“Okay. It’s my teacher. He did something in class today that was really fucked up.”
“What happened, Warren?”
Warren told me the whole story, his eyes rimmed with red and his nose dripping with snot. He and his social studies teacher Mr. Harmon had never gotten along, and today Warren drew a caricature of Mr. Harmon in high heels and a dress.
“I thought it was pretty good,” Warren said, sniffling. Mr. Harmon had taken the picture from Warren and said “Is this supposed to be me? You think you’re a real comedian, don’t you, Warren? I wonder if you’re so clever and funny, why you always eat lunch alone.”
“I eat lunch alone because I like eating lunch alone,” Warren had said.
Mr. Harmon tore the picture up and said “Who in this class likes Mr. Smarty Pants here?”
Only three people raised their hands.
“‘There’s three people in this class who like you,’” he said. “You should really start evaluating yourself. You’re not as wonderfully unique as you think you are.”
“He really said that to you?”
Warren nodded. I was absolutely furious, I practically ran to the telephone and called Warren’s school.
“Hi, I’d like to talk to Warren’s social studies teacher, Mr. Harmon.”
“He’s not in right now,” a bored voice on the other end of the line said. “He went home.”
I looked up him up in the phone book- Warren said his first name was ‘Fred’- and I called him up at home. His wife answered.
“Hello, I’d like to speak to Fred Harmon.”
“I’m sorry, who is this?”
“I’m Hazel Cowell. I’m the mother of one of his students.”
“Just hang on a minute, I’ll go get him… are you alright?”
“Fine,” I said through gritted teeth.
A deep male voice answered the phone. He sounded older than me, maybe in his 60s, and something about the voice made me think he was a smoker. “Yeah?”
“Fred Harmon, I heard about the way you treated my son today, and I just want to say that it was disgraceful. I’m filing a formal complaint, I just thought you should know that so you can have a chance to apologize.”
“I take it your son is that little Warren kid.”
“Yes, he is.”
“Yeah, I didn’t do nothing to him. If he made up some big abuse story, he’s lying.”
“My son doesn’t lie. And he didn’t make up some ‘big abuse story,’ whatever that means. He said that you asked the students how many of them liked him in order to publicly humiliate him.”
“Oh geez. Look, I was just trying to teach him a little lesson.”
“What lesson? That he’s worthless?”
“I guess he didn’t tell you what he did.”
“He told me about the caricature. Mr. Harmon, he’s a child. He acts up sometimes, he makes stupid mistakes. What you did to him is unacceptable. You should have seen him today, he came home bawling.”
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.”
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that.”
“Look, what’s it going to take for you to let this go?”
“I want you to apologize to me and I want you to apologize to Warren, and I want you to at the very least sound like you mean it. And I want you to treat my son like a human being from now on, like you’ve got a shred of decency.”
“Okay, I’m sorry, Mrs. Cowell. I was trying to make a point, but I guess I went too far. I’ll apologize to Warren when he comes to class tomorrow, unless you want me to do it on the phone.”
The next day Warren came home and said “It’s weird, Mom, but Mr. Harmon actually apologized to me. He even said he had been a jerk… just out of curiosity, did you have something to do with that?”
“Warren, I’m not going to lie to you. I made a few phone calls and raised heck.”
Warren hugged me. “Wow, you’re like Atticus Finch. You just swooped in there and stood up for me. You must have scared the shit out of him.”
“Well, it generally scares people when they’re in danger of losing their jobs.”
“Maybe I’ll apologize to him for drawing the picture, just to make things even. Although he did look pretty good in heels.”
You’re not a bad artist, Warren. I just wish you’d use your powers for good and not for evil.”
“It’s all in good fun. I’m a satirist.”
“Well, your ‘satire’ is going to get you in a lot of trouble someday.”
Sticking up for Warren made me feel good for the rest of the day, and I spent most of the night thinking about what had happened and wondering why teachers sometimes treated their students so badly. When I was in the ninth grade, I had a calculus teacher named Mr. Simmons who would lean over me at my desk and ‘accidently’ graze my breast with the back of his hand while he was correcting my math problems. Once he asked me to stay after class to clean the blackboard and he stuck his hands down my blouse. He told me it was okay if I was nervous and he knew I liked it and I ran home crying. I think I actually threw up on the front steps of the school. I told my brother Michael and he told my dad and my dad went by the school and honest-to-god beat Mr. Simmons up. That was how we did it in those days, there wasn’t much you could do for sexual harassment other than to bring in another man with superior strength. Mr. Simmons never hurt me again, in fact, he barely even went near me. I know it’s sinful to say, but I loved my father for doing that. He protected me from further abuse and I was never groped by a teacher again.