"Junior" would be characterized today as mentally retarded, but back in high school all those years ago, he was just plain "dumb." His greasy comb-over, high-water pants and extreme awkwardness made him the target of the insecure bullies who inhabit every school. Once, as a group of us waited for the art teacher to show up, another round of Junior Taunting began.
He was dressed in every shade of yellow that day -- a mismatched eyesore of mustard, gold and lemon. "Banana Boy" was the least offensive slur. As a senior and a "nice girl," I was just starting across the room to break it up, when suddenly "Jim" stepped in front of the cowering Junior. Jim -- with his ripped jeans, scars and homemade tattoos -- fit the "bad boy" image right down to his missing pinkie, which, according to school lore, had been accidentally cut off when he was drunk in shop class. The bullies waited gleefully to hear Jim finish Junior off.
"Junior," Jim began, and Junior raised his sad eyes to receive the insult.
"That's a nice shirt, man."
In the silence that followed, our teacher appeared and the group dispersed, leaving me and Junior there, stunned.
Jim dropped out of school the next year, fathered some illegitimate children, got into trouble with the law and generally lived up to his reputation, but I'll never forget the kindness and human decency he showed Junior that day.
Amy Belyea Garber, Mount Jackson, Va.
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