Note From The Editor: The writer of this very nice story sent it to me and asked to remain anonymous. However, I have his e-mail address, so if you want to tell him what you think about his story you can email me ([email protected]) and I will make sure he gets your comments.
I needed to check up on this Alex Lictfield kid. I thought I remember reading several of his games in Georgia's state chess magazine. My dad was a life member of the US Chess Federation as well as the Georgia association, so we got all their publications. I knew who the kid was. His tournament games were published in Georgia's magazine often. I needed to study them tonight.
I went through the magazines (I kept them all) over the last few years, picking out those that contained Lictfield's games. The editors were proud of him. He was the state high school champion. Good, that would mean that I'd have a chance to re-read plenty of his games, but he would have no chance to read any of mine, since I had never played in a tournament and, therefore, none of mine were ever published.
In fact, he probably had never heard of me at all. But, to be pragmatic about this, his teachers and principal probably had. They had likely never heard of me in regards to playing chess, but my name had probably been mentioned in passing to them. When they heard it, someone would remember having heard that I was smart, but that would be about it. And since both associations' memberships were in my dad's name, not mine, and both were adult memberships, not student, they wouldn't garner a whole lot of information about me from that.
Since my dad never played in tournaments, either, and was unrated, they would have no indication as to how good he was (he was pretty good). Our last name was not all that unusual, but from having the same last names, living in the same town, and both playing chess, they would be able to assume that I was the kid in a family that was interested in chess; interested enough for someone to be a life member in both associations. And they could do some checking to find out that I was smart, if they didn't already know.
And that was all they would know about me.
On the other hand, I had over a dozen of Lictfield's published games to study He was their quarterback, as well as played basketball and baseball, so our guys had played against him and could help me put together a psychological profile of him. This being Coach Grant's first year, he would only have one experience against him, but our team had played them a very good game this fall and Coach would be able to help me a lot in understanding this kid.
One of my conditions would be that we give the name and grade of our representative (me), but simply omit saying anything about age. So Lictfield, a senior, would hopefully simply assume he was playing a 15 or 16 year old, not someone 13. I could make some use of this.
If we decided to go through with this, it would be the only thing I would be studying for the next few weeks. That would also be one of my conditions; no teacher would expect me to be doing any other homework until after Christmas. They knew I knew the stuff already anyway, so there was no loss in that.
When I got to Mrs. McConnal's I headed straight for my room to get comfortable and settle in to reading over that kid's games. It was a very informative experience.
There came a knock at the door. Darkness was early, so by 5:00 it was already night. I had already gotten comfy, in my sweat clothes, shoes off, snuggled up under the covers, reading. Rather than getting up to answer the door I called for Mrs. McConnal to come on in.
She wanted to apologize. "I'm sorry I got irritated at you about your being short with Mrs. Wilkerson." she said. "You do have a right to not like what she said to you about paddling you if you show up in her class stoned again. She's right to spank you if you do," she added, " but you are perfectly within your rights not to like it. And I'm sorry I acted as if you weren't."
"That's OK, Pretty Lady." I said. "I'm sorry, I just felt like you both expected me to like being threatened with a spanking. And I thought that was going a bit far."
"It was." she agreed. "I promised myself that I would never try to break your spirit. And to expect that of you is going too far on our part. I think what concerned me most was that I thought you were pulling you cloak of ice over you with her, and I don't think that's healthy."
It was time for me to admit what I was feeling. "I'm sorry, Pretty Lady, but I'm . . . well, I'm scared of Mrs. Wilkerson. She can go off like a hand grenade sometimes. And I don't want to have anything to do with her.
"I don't want her thinking that we're going to be friends, or that we're supposed to be friends. We both heard what she did to Stan, and he's supposed to be her favorite student. I don't want her doing that to me."
"But we also both know how Stan provoked her." Mrs. McConnal pointed out.
"I know." I said. "But you didn't see how she beat on him earlier in class. I mean, she hit him 10 times with her paddle, as hard as she could, in front of the class. He was crying, loud. I mean, that should have been enough, Mrs. McConnal.
"She should have spanked him earlier rather than letting it get that out of hand. She spanks other kids three licks in the hall for less. She shouldn't have let herself get that built up and then spank him that bad.
"Besides," I went on, "if she has let herself get that built up about me for coming to class stoned, then if I were to ever slip and earn a lick or two, I have no assurance that she would take all the other times out on me and do the same thing to me. You follow me?"
"She'd never do that, Jeremy." Mrs. McConnal assured me.
"But I don't have any guarantee of that, Mrs. McConnal. And I'm scared of her. And I don't want any kind of relationship with her.
"Think about it." I asked of her, "She loves Stan and she did that to him. She thinks I'm just a smart mouthed little brat. What do you think she would do to me if she ever started working on my butt?"
"She won't do that to you." Mrs. McConnal assured me again, this time more adamantly.
"But I tried to be good to Miss. Andrews." I pointed out.
"I know, darling." she smiled, "And I am so proud of you."
She moved closer to me and hugged me. "For the first time since I've known you, you actually made the first move to reach out to someone; someone that you could help. That must've taken a lot of guts for you to do that."
"She seemed like a hurt puppy." I said. "She seemed so helpless and those guys are tormenting her. She was almost crying, Mrs. McConnal. I just couldn't watch that any more.
"You know," I went on, "you blister my butt. Mrs. Wilkerson tore up Stan. And Mrs. Johnson really went to town on Joel's bottom last year. And then these guys pick on totally defenseless people, and nothing ever happens to them. It's not right. It's not OK to treat people that way."
"So you told Miss. Andrews to cane them." Pretty Lady saw some humor in this.
"They deserve it." I said. "They deserve for the hurt puppy they've been torturing all year to put some stripes on their behinds that stick around for several weeks." Then I added, "I hope Coach Grant teaches her how to do it good, too. . . . Besides, I really despise Richard and he's the ringleader of that bunch."
"I know you do." she said. "And I think Coach Grant will give her all the instruction she needs, and then some." (I wasn't exactly sure what she meant by that.) "But it remains to be seen whether Miss. Andrews will be able to work up the nerve to carry it out."
"For her own sake, I think she needs to." I said. "Don't you?"
"Yes, I do." she said. Moving to a lighter note, "What are you reading?"
"Some of the chess games of that kid from Glenn Oaks." I said. "He's pretty good."
"So you're going to play him?" she asked.
"If they agree to my conditions." I told her.
"And if they don't?" she asked.
"Then I won't play him." I said frankly.
"But Mr. Donaldson really wants you to play him." she reminded me.
I looked at her smiling and said, "They don't know that."
She grinned. "You're going to beat him. Aren't you?"
I took a deep breath and grinned broader. "That is the idea."
She tousled my hair, "Oh, Lord, you are something."
"I'll need your help." I said seriously.
"How in the world can I help?' she asked.
"Oh, Pretty Lady," I said seriously, "I will need your help."
"You can count on it." She kissed me on the forehead. (I knew I could.) "Supper will be ready in about an hour."
Over supper I asked Mr. Jed, "In a courtroom, how do you deal with a very aggressive opponent?" I knew Mr. Jed didn't talk about specific cases, but I was only asking in generalities.
"Well, of course, you have to take each one as they come, Jeremy." he said. "But sometimes if the aggressiveness is more bluster than fact, it can be best to let him get a little carried away with himself and then calmly trip him up. Sometimes you can even lay a trap for him to catch himself in. That'll often take some of the wind out of his sails. Why? Is this guy you're going to play that type?"
"I'm not sure." I said. "He does play aggressively. And I would like for him to be overconfident, at least at first. I'd like to take the wind out of his sails if I can, but not until I've used it against him in at lest one game. In fact, I'd like for him to think I beat him the first time by accident so that he comes back even more overconfident the second night."
"Then lay your trap so subtlety," he said, "that he doesn't even realize that it was a trap you laid. Let him think he just put his foot in it himself. That it was just a fluke."
Mr. Jed knew most everybody in this part of the state, so I asked if he knew the Lictfields over in Glenn Oaks.
"Yeah, I've had some dealings with them. Is it Alex that you're going to be playing?" he asked.
"If we play." I said. "Can you tell me anything about them?"
"The dad's pretty head strong." Mr. Jed replied. "Doesn't think he has an equal anywhere, either in business or in golf. I understand the son takes after his pop. From the word going around they both think the kid should be getting a football scholarship to either Georgia or Alabama after this year, but folks I know say that Georgia Southern or even Troy State, over in Alabama, is more likely."
"Do either of y'all know any way I could find out what his grades and test scores are, without anyone else knowing about it?" I thought that would give me an idea of how smart he thought he was.
"I'm sure they're good." Mr. Jed replied.
"That's probably not ethical." Mrs. McConnal said. "Besides, I'm sure his test scores can't be as good as yours."
After supper Mr. Jed got out his chessboard and asked to see some of Lictfield's games. We played over several of them. I didn't make any comment. I wanted his unclouded opinions.
"Yep, he does like to attack early, doesn't he?" he said.
"Sure does." I replied.
"But he attacks so soon that he can't get all his pieces into play." he observed.
"Right." I answered.
"There's got to be a trap to be laid for him somewhere in there." he commented. "One that would leave him at a material disadvantage early, and take away what pieces he has developed, leaving him in a real hurt."
"Yeah," I said, "it's there somewhere. I'll find it soon enough."
As we were all going to bed Mrs. McConnal asked me if I would like for her to join me in my meeting with Mr. Donaldson, the principal, the next day to work things out. "He can be pretty forceful," she said, "and try to override your wishes."
"I really would like for you to be there," I said, "but I feel like if I am to put myself in the position that I need to be in, that I have to be able to hold my own ground with the principal now. But," I added, "I would appreciate it if you would be waiting outside. If I can't handle it by myself, I would like to know you're there for me to call on." Mama, don't leave me.
"I'll be there." she said.
The next morning over breakfast Mrs. McConnal asked me to try (TRY) to be nice to Mrs. Wilkerson.
"I'm nice enough to her." I answered. I didn't mean that in the sense that there was no reason for me to be any nicer to her than I already was, I meant . . . well, maybe that is what I meant.
"Don't play games with me, young man." Pretty Lady was irritated by my remark.
"I'm not playing games," I said, "I just meant that, well . . . you know . . . I'm at least indifferent to her."
Mr. Jed stifled a laugh. He didn't want to incur his wife's wrath any more than I did.
"From you," she said, "indifference is too often as nice as you get. That's a big part of your problem you have with your teachers."
"I don't have any problem with my teachers."
"No, it's they who have a problem with you." she said. And I really do wish you'd try to work on that."
"Work on that?" I asked as I helped her clear the table.
She took my chin in her hand and gave me a shake. "Be nice to them! You saw how Miss. Anderson responded when you were nice to her yesterday. All your teachers would respond that way if you were nice to them. You can be a very charming young gentleman when you want to be."
Then she said to me, gently, "They're all so proud just to have you in their class, Jeremy. They want you to like them so badly." Then she added, "And it really is disconcerting for them when you just stare at them and they know you're not listening to a word they say. I mean not a word. When they look right at you and speak to you, you're not even aware enough to know that it's you they're talking to. Not unless they call your name."
"I thought I had a good working relationship with them on that account." And I really did.
"No, child!" she hardly ever called me 'child'. Nobody wants to be so totally ignored like that. "They think that you think they're stupid."
"And it makes them feel inept. They know they're smarter than their other students, but when you act that way, they do feel stupid. They're really nice people, Jeremy. Most of them. Give them a chance . . . please. For me?"
"OK." If Pretty Lady wants it, Pretty Lady gets it. At least, I was determined that much until I was actually sitting in class facing Mrs. Wilkerson who had threatened to paddle me with that huge board of hers. And I still didn't see where I had done anything wrong.
Miss. Andrews came into class that day carrying two canes, one about 2' long and the other about 3' long. Both looked pretty intimidating to me.
She began by announcing to the class, "Class, I have allowed this class to be interrupted by too much nonsense during this semester. I apologize to you for that. I have been irresponsible in letting that to go on. It won't go on any longer."
The desks in her classroom were not the usual student desks. They were lab desks, tables for two students. No one wanted to sit by me, so I was alone, at the front of the class (like I said, looking at her was a great way to start the day).
She continued, "I thought that everyone could behave like adults in here. Evidently some people cannot. From now on they can. If, from now on, anyone insists on behaving like children . . ."
Swish Crack! She hit my desk with the smaller cane.
I jumped, startled.
"Then," she continued, "I understand that I will have to treat them like children. And if they are too big to be acting like children . . . "
Swish CRACK!! She hit my desk with the longer cane. I was almost in shock.
"Then," she went on, "I will have to treat them like big children.."
Her message was clear. She was promising to slice some butts if anyone got out of line again.
God, Miss. Andrews, don't do that again. I was shaking from the shock of her hitting my desk with those two canes. That longer one especially . . . oh, Jeez, you could kill somebody with that thing.
I knew that her message was directed towards Larry Dumford, Joe, and Richard (of course, I hated him). Dumford was a cop's son and thought he was entitled to intimidate everyone on the school because of that. Joe was a dumb shit who followed Larry and Richard. And Richard was their ring leader. They were the ones giving Miss. Andrews all the trouble in our class. They were all in my grade, but nearly three years older than I was.
I didn't like any of them. None of them liked me. As far as I was concerned they could all go rot.
I hoped she did beat the crap out of those jerks. But I was still shaken up by those canes landing within inches of me. Don't beat me, Miss. Andrews, please don't beat me. I'll be good. I swear I'll be good.
I looked up at her, wide eyed and in shock. She looked back at me, with a sweet expression on her face, as if expecting me to be proud of her for finally standing up for herself. And I was proud of her. I just wished she hadn't used my desk for a sounding board for her new play pretties.
But I knew I had to give her some encouragement right now, so I gave her a firm look and a nod, as if to say, 'Right on'.
There were some smirks from a few members of the class. I couldn't help thinking, 'I wouldn't be the first ones to test her, guys. I think she means it'.
She put the canes in the closet, and the class went on normally. No one gave her any trouble.
After class I smiled to her and asked, "Feel better today?"
She smiled sweetly and answered, "Yeah, thanks."
During gym class I thought it best to brief Coach Grant on what I planned to ask from him during our meeting with Mr. Donaldson later that day. I knocked on his office door and he called for me to come on in.
To my surprise Miss. Andrews was in there. I hadn't seen her come in or I wouldn't have interrupted. What I saw caused me to go cold for an instant. Coach Grant had tied a string around a pillow, to make it simulate a butt, and Miss. Andrews was practicing planting a cane on the right spots with accuracy.
"Oh, hi, Jeremy." she said happily. "Coach Grant is giving me instructions in how to use these things."
"Hay, Miss. Andrews." I smiled. She's so pretty.
"I'm glad no one tried to test me today," she said, "because I really wasn't ready this morning. Coach Grant is showing me how to take a running start and hit the most sensitive part of a bottom. Watch."
She then backed off and took a running start at the pillow before planting her 3' cane on what would have been the tenderest part of a butt with horrific force. That one lick would have been worse than any spanking I had ever gotten. It would have sent any boy into immediate spank land, almost as if she had used a machete instead of a cane.
I must have gone white. I forgot all about the meeting later. I stared at the pillow, imagining it to be my own butt. "M - M - M - Miss. Andrews, please don't ever do that to me."
"Oh, Jeremy, No! I would never do that to you, precious!" She came to me and took my face in her hands. "No, baby, you know that's not for you."
Of course I knew who that was for. And I knew that they would decide to push her to the point of forcing her to do that to them. They were so stupid and so arrogant that they would not take her warning from this morning to heart and simply stop their harassment of her. No, they would push her to forcing her to use those canes, at least the long one, that she had brandished this morning.
They deserved what was headed their way. They had been given ample warning, and would ignore it.
"Yes, ma'am," I said, "I would never do anything to you to deserve that. But those three . . . I know they already have it coming, and I know they're going to force you to do that to them. And I do encourage you to hold your ground and go through with it - after all a real behind is not the same as a pillow - but I also know that, when the time comes, you're going to have them howling in agony. And just the thought of that does scare me."
"I hope it scares them enough that I don't have to carry through with it." she said. Then she asked, "Do you think it will?"
"I'm afraid they're still going to test you, Miss. Andrews. I think you really do need to be prepared to follow through with your promise this morning." I told her. "Because if you don't. It'll put you in an even weaker position."
"He's right." Coach Grant told her.
"I know." she said.
Since we were having this conversation, I felt that I had to add something. "Miss. Andrews," I said, "I'm not trying to tell you what to do, or anything like that, but may I please make a suggestion?"
"Of course, Jeremy," she said. "Go ahead."
"I really don't think you have to take a running start at a boy with either of those canes you have." Then, feeling that I needed to explain myself I went on, "You can hurt a boy real bad without taking a running start. After all, you can give him as many licks as you want to. And they don't have to be all that hard. If fact, to give him more medium licks, and lengthen out the spanking, might make more an impression - on him and on those listening - than a few extremely hard ones.
"But if you take running starts, even for just a few licks, you'll get a reputation as a sadist. And I wouldn't want people thinking that about you."
And I added, "Besides, it won't be as hard for you to work up the courage to give a boy a lot of medium licks as it would be for you to hit him as hard as you could."
She thought for a minute and said, "You've got a good point, Jeremy. I think I can work up the guts to give any boy plenty of medium licks."
Any boy? Me? Well, maybe a few medium licks at your hands, Miss. Andrews. That could be interesting. But I'm not going to rush it.
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