hated more than Schlesinger in that moment was myself. I had managedto land my family in a worse way than when I’d started and was forcedto wonder if I was perhaps more like my father than I’d hoped.
I sat there with my eyes wet, while Schlesinger lectured me on the
seriousness of the situation. “I hope we can get this cleared up without
getting the law involved,” he said. “I really do.”
After a while there was nothing left for him to say, and I just stared
at the floor while we waited for Principal Judmann to notify us when
my mother arrived. Schlesinger seemed relieved when his phone finally
rang. He listened to what was said and grunted into the receiver before
gathering up Ronny’s notebook and his own yellow legal pad.
“All right, Jacob,” he said, putting down the phone. “It’s time.”
I wiped my face on the sleeve of my T-shirt and followed him out into
the hall. Over an hour had gone by since I’d been pulled out of class. It
was the middle of fourth period, which meant that Jessica Chandler, an
eighth grader who volunteered in the main office, had heard about the
notebook and was spreading the word. By then the stories had already
begun to change. In the months to come I would hear that Ronny had
paid me to wear diapers for a month, burn my privates with a match.
and to drink his dog’s urine.
As Schlesinger and I passed a homeroom, I heard someone whisper,“No way it’s him.” We walked by the cafeteria, and a whole table of people I didn’t know saw me and laughed. Annie was sitting three tablesback. One of her friends whispered something in her ear and pointed inmy direction. Annie’s eyes went wide, and she covered her mouth withher hand.
“Once people know you’re poor,” my father shouted from the far end
of the hall, “they never let you forget it.”
When we reached the main office, Schlesinger paused in front of the
frosted glass door. He looked both ways to make sure he wouldn’t be
overheard, then put his hand on my shoulder.
“Look, Jacob,” he said, “I’ve never heard your name before today, and
that’s a good thing.”
He held up Ronny’s notebook. “I won’t put up with this sort of behav-
ior in my school, and I was right to come down on you, but in general
you don’t seem like the type. Whereas Ronny’s always been a problem.
If you were to tell me and everyone in Principal Judmann’s office that he
bullied you into this, hell, I’d believe you.”