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The Garbage Man

WASHINGTON: OK, so the summer right before seventh grade, my family moved from deep country to bustling suburbia in one straight shot. Before walking into school my first day, I tried to psych myself up. I tried to recall that it didn't happen right away but yeah, when I left I was king of the sixth grade. And this was a bigger canvas. I'd never seen so many kids in the same place in my life. But my inner self told my outer self to act like you've been here before, and I did - took a deep breath of that first day of school smell, and it was on. I waved at kids who weren't waving at me, nodded at the map like I knew what was happening, shouted down the hall at James, Mark, Tiffany - whatever names I thought up. And the first day packet said to go to your locker, test your locker and then go to your assigned homeroom. Lockers - you know, I wasn't too familiar - out in the country we just had to use cubbyholes. And the packet said something about turn left for the lock, and then there were the numbers so I dialed 8, 21, 14 - I pulled and nothing happened. I try it again - pulled. And I noticed these two kids were looking at me laughing. So I kind of wiggled the locker and tried to give it a yank. And these kids were like hey, hey, hey, hey look at this dumb kid. He doesn't even know how to open a lock. And more kids come and everyone's having a jolly time. They're shouting and pointing and hooting. And someone pushes me into the locker, and I go to swing and get shoved again and again, and I know I can't cry - not on the first day of school. And then there's the real blows, and I'm holding my arms in front of my face, but still some guys are grabbing me, and they're hitting me in the back of the neck, and they're picking me up. Picking me up - my entire body and screaming and laughing and before shoving me hard into a garbage can, pressing me down into the muck.

But not any garbage can - it's the kind with the dome top on it. They shove it over my head and they latch it from the outside. The howls - it's the funniest thing that they've ever seen. And the laughter stops on a dime. And I can't see anything 'cause I'm shoved inside a garbage can. And I think it must be a teacher or the principal, and I'm thinking oh, no, this is going to make it worse. And then I hear this - (imitating girl) you jerks, simple stooges, do you feel better now, picking on the new kid?

Voice like poison - easy contempt, distain, and the hurt mob melts away. I hear fingers unlocking the clasp on the garbage can. I kind of fall out onto the floor, and I look up at this girl. She's petite, super pretty, obviously popular. (Imitating girl) Are you all right?

Yeah I'm fine. I start trying to pick up my papers and my books strewn about the hallway. I walk back to the front of my locker. I just look at it, but I can't do this in front of her. And she just says, (imitating girl) what's your combination?

I give her the paper. And she says, (imitating girl) the trick is you have to spin it once first before the left, right, left.

Oh. (Imitating girl) We're in the same class.

She leads me to the other end of the school. We stop in front of a classroom. (Imitating girl) You know, everyone is going to know, right?


(Imitating girl) Don't worry, follow my lead. She opens the door. Everyone looks up and starts snickering. The teacher's like, you're late. But the girl - she ignores him, raises my hand like in victory and says this is the new kid, the garbage man. I smile and I take a bow, and everyone laughs again, but not at me - with me. Thank you, Lori Slater Boomers (ph), so very much.

Today on SNAP JUDGMENT from PRX and NPR, God Sent, amazing stories from real people who needed some divine intervention. My name is Glynn Washington, and if you need some good news, you're in luck 'cause you're listening to SNAP JUDGMENT. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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