Charlie Boger came into my classroom. He was 15 and the rest of the class was 11. The schoolyard dramas had no interest to him.
One day, there was a huge fight in the playground; I headed out as hard as I could to break it up. It was only about 50 yards away but thank goodness, Charlie had stopped it. He did not like seeing someone beat up. Eric Lawson was bleeding from his nose and lip. Paul Smoker’s eyes were blazing.
I sent Eric to the office first so they could doctor his wounds and call his mother. I walked Paul there as I took the class in from the playground. About an hour after recess, 10 minutes before the day was over, they called Charlie Boger to the office.
I sat at my desk and graded a set of spelling tests. I wrote pedantic work across Charlie Boger’s paper. He would find the word in the dictionary every time. I knew he was putting in his time.
As I drove home, there was Charlie Boger walking down the highway about four miles from the school. I pulled over.
” Charlie, why aren’t you on the bus?”
“Miz Rogers, Eric turned me over for hitting him in the face.”
“You didn’t hit him in the face. I saw the whole thing. It was Paul Smoker.”
“That’s what they say. Anyway, I got to get home.”
“Let me give you a ride.”
“I live on a dirt road. Your car won’t stay clean, all that dust and such”.
“They should have gotten you out for the bus.”
“It’s a good thing.”
“Get in the car.”
He gave me directions as we wound down a narrow dirt road that followed the path of Sabbath Creek. He got out of the car and several younger children were waiting on him.
Charlie, I plan to get things fixed tomorrow.
He gave me a regretful look.
“It doesn’t matter Miz Rogers. I’ll be 16 next month. My last day of school was due. We got to get the garden in so we can eat. I’m so tired of collard greens. The taters did sorry this year.”
I knew his father had died several years ago. I did get the story straight that next Monday. The school sent a letter to Charlie Boger’s home. He stopped by my room when he returned his books. He said they did not usually get mail so no one had checked the mailbox. He asked me if my family was well.
I would like to say he grew up, prospered and lived a fine life. He drove a log truck for a while and I taught his younger siblings. Two of them graduated from high school. Charlie fell asleep driving a truck they say. He was only nineteen. I wondered how many people besides me knew he was old man at the funeral.