Brook-Bagging Louie Stamoolis

As a bully, Dwayne Pasternak was an underachiever.

Oh, he probably could have gotten good at it, if he'd just applied himself a little more. But on a scale of Bullying as an Artform, his work was like a Starving Artist painting...

Unoriginal... Cheap.... Initially getting your attention, but eventually just blending in behind the sofa.

He was the kid who'd call you "dogface," if you just happened to look his way. The one who'd trip you on your way to class so you'd drop your books. The boy who'd snap your bra.

I always felt his repertoire lacked range.

I mean, Teeny DeLuca, now she'd shown first-rate creativity when she tried to give me lead poisoning. And Arnold Kosninski, he used skilled spin-doctoring to enrage his victims. But Dwayne, well, he'd never make into the Bully Hall of Fame... His lack of imagination held him back.

Until he decided to brook-bag a kid named Louie Stamoolis.

Louie Stamoolis was a seventh-grade human computer... input and output. His math was of Texas Instruments quality. He remembered dates and events like he lived them. He even seized foreign languages like Napoleon did countries. Louie was brilliant.

But because Louie was storing all of this data in his brain, regrettably, it left very little room for anything else. Like manners... modesty... or a sense of humor. And the giant weight of his brain also seemed to press on the back of his eyes, straining his tear ducts.

Louie Stamoolis could cry at the drop of a hat.

It didn't even have to be his hat.

Add to that, he was small for his age, with an almost pretty face, and long dark lashes. He was a target for his intelligence, his looks, and because he was a little bit hard to like.

The crying only made it worse.

So, one day as school let out, I was headed on home and spied Dwayne Pasternak playing keep-away with Louie's backpack.

Dwayne was tall, wiry, and with a straw-colored flat top. With his plaid flannel shirt and that scrub-brush hair, he looked like a scarecrow teetering in the wind-- the book bag dangling high over Louie's head.

Louie's pale face was streaming with tears and he'd jump. And miss. And sob. And jump again. And whimper.

"You want it?" laughed Dwayne, "Come get it. Or consider yourself brook-bagged, Stamoolis!"

Brook-bagging meant tossing someone's backpack into the stream that ran outside the school. Many a text book and homework went the way of the brook. Teachers knew papers turned in with crinkled and smeared pages had probably been resurrected from a serious brook-bagging.

Well, at the very threat of it, Louie Stamoolis' tearducts started working overtime. And that's when I heard a bored, irritated voice say, "Aww, just give him his stupid bag back, Dwayne."

Oh. That voice was mine.

Dwayne fixed his attention on me, with a look of vague recognition like, "Hey, hadn't I bullied you before?"

But strangely, Dwayne didn't really scare me. What was he going to do to me? Snap my bra again? Call me ugly for the umpteenth time? By eighth grade, I'd seen it all, and survived to tell about it. But picking on Louie Stamoolis... that was like flipping a turtle on its back to see it struggle.

Someone had to take the side of the turtle.

"You stay out of this," Dwayne snarled.

"C'mon, Dwayne. It's not cool. Just give it to him," I said.

And that's when Dwayne started racing down the hallway.

I looked to see what Louie planned to do about it. But he just leaned against the lockers, sobbing like Joan Crawford trying for an Oscar. So maybe it was a lack of fear. Or maybe I'd just watched too many Wonder Woman episodes. But I left Louie in the middle of his big scene-- and ran after Dwayne.

Now, Dwayne wasn't really expecting to be chased-- let alone by a girl. Down the metal stairs we went, one after the other, with a clatter like thunder.

Bang! went the school doors and out onto the sidewalk we flew. Dwayne sprinted. I sprinted, too. And that's when, true to his underachieving nature, Dwayne lost all initiative and dropped the bag. It lay there on the pavement in the center of the bridge over the brook-- the shining prize in my quest for justice.

Dwayne called me some names over his shoulder for good measure, as he ran on home. A parting shot of a desperate man. The weak words of the defeated. I picked up the backpack.

I smiled at the bag, gave it a little hug, and thought, "No brook for you today, my friend." And jogged back into the school to find Louie.

Louie was right where I'd left him, having a meltdown at his locker, his world ending in the form of a drowned red Nike backpack. I handed him the rescued bag with flourish and a warm triumph swelling in my heart. Or maybe that was just my asthma kicking in after all that running.

"Here!" I proclaimed. "It's safe!"

But Louie snatched it from my hand like I'd tried to brook-bag him myself. He glared up at me, gave a swipe to his running nose, his tear-stained eyes, and slung the bag on his shoulder. Without a word, he stalked off.

I stood there, watching Louie's retreating back bob off into the afternoon sun, and I shook my head.

I bet Wonder Woman had these moments, too. The scenes they never showed us.



Shirley said...

Lol! Poor fella. I'm at a mix of emotions. I don't know if I should laugh or be sad over the misunderstood kid. My mom used to buy me the Wonder Woman underoos. I used to run through the house crime fighting.

Jenn Thorson said...

Shirley-- Oh I had the Wonder Woman Underoos, too. I loved them! (In fact, there are days at work, I think I could use them NOW, for a little extra confidence and moral support!) :)

I often wonder what happened to that kid. I sort of imagine he ended up in therapy. He had a lot of problems, the poor fellow.

Hypocritical One said...

Ok...that was awesome.

When you ran after him, did that "wonder woman" whooshing sound accompany you?

Jenn Thorson said...

Hypocritical One- You know, try as I did during my childhood, I never COULD make that noise. Nor did I get a wardrobe change when I spun around really, really fast. (And believe me, I tried.) Talk about a disappointment! :)

You know,it was your Scouting Bully story yesterday that reminded me of this particular incident-- so thank you!!!

Da Old Man said...

Great story.

Jenn, defender of the weak, staunch enemy of brook baggers everywhere. That could have been a TV series.

Jenn Thorson said...

Da Old Man- Heh, nah, too one-note-- no overall dramatic arcs. :)

Jay said...

Aw .. poor kid, he was probably such an emotional mess he had no idea how to thank you! He may have been a tad embarrassed too! But good for you. I bet Dwayne though twice about catching your attention after that, huh?

Jenn Thorson said...

Jay- It's certainly possible; it wasn't easy being him, for sure. Dwayne didn't mess with me much after that certainly.

He did still give my best friend Josette a hard time, but she indicates until I wrote this, she'd blocked him out. :)

Meg said...

I love a strong girl. And you didn't even need those dorky tights.

Jenn Thorson said...

Meg- I don't know, the tights might have been an improvement over our gym uniforms. :)

Chat Blanc said...

Superheros like you are sooo under-appreciated! That story should have been passed down, year-to-year, and become legend.

Jenn Thorson said...

Sandy- Ah, I imagine this was just one story in the epic middle school struggle of good versus evil. Each kid undoubtedly has a similar tale of victimization and triumph.

Also wedgies and swirlies. :)

Barry said...

You may have hurt him more than Dwayne ever could. He had to be rescued by a girl. Of course once grown up, I cannot imagine him minding being rescued by you now. :> I wouldn't mind being rescued by Wonder Woman , or ... um I think I will stop that before I go too far :P

Sometimes our efforts in saving people don't really save them (example much of our foreign aid).

Jenn Thorson said...

Barry- I see that now, but it honestly never occurred to me at the time. I'd grown up on comics like Wonder Woman, SpiderWoman and BatGirl, so to me, it just seemed the right thing to do. I know I'd have liked help if it had been me.

Of course, I rather think Louie would have reacted the same no matter WHO had helped him. He wasn't really big on the social skills.

Melanie said...

Sounds like Louie didn't have the social skills required for the big thank you that you deserved.

I'd forgotten all about Wonder Woman and junior high bullies. Thanks for bringing back some (good, bad, weird) memories.

chyna said...

I'm going to bet that he rather liked his drama queen cryfests and you broke it up. LOL He probably works for Microsoft or something by now, some place where his brains and lack of social skills will come in handy.

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- It's certainly another potentially-valid theory. I really would be interested to know what happened to the poor kid. I hope he IS holding down a good job, in a niche he loves, and isn't just at home depressed and in a fetal position or something. I worry.