*Warning: This story describes an offensive event, and so language and
situations may be offensive to some and are not intended for young
Budo 101, Continued:
Mr. Merckle looked up from his
computer with a ponderous sigh, his face red before he even said a word. His
lower chin wobbled as he pushed himself back as far into his chair as he would
go. “What is it now?”
“Fighting in the hall,” Mr. Sink, the
English teacher, delivered up his captives.
Mr. Merckle sighed again and shook
his head, causing fluid waves in the loose flesh under his jaw. Jack watched
the ripples with amusement. How hard would he have to shake his head to get a
ripple to go all the way around his neck and come back on the other side?
“John Snyder and Ashley Tildford.”
Mr. Merckle made a note. “You both
understand that we don’t tolerate fighting in this school?”
“I wasn’t fight…”
“Quiet, both of you!” The principle
had a way of booming his voice and leaning his head forward with little eyes
glaring out over cherry red cheeks. It worked every time, and had been known to
stop cafeteria food fights dead in their tracks. The two teenagers in the tiny office were no
match for it. Even Mr. Sink jumped.
Jack subsided into his resentful
“I am too busy to deal with you two
at the moment. Ms. Hagg will telephone your parents and we will discuss what is
to be done with you later. In the meantime, both of you will sit out in the office
and Ms. Hagg will keep an eye on you until your parents get her. You may work
on homework if you like. Dave, let Ms. Hagg know on your way out, would you?”
He thrust himself forward to his
computer again. Clearly they were dismissed.
Damn it, Jack thought. They’re
He didn’t think his dad would care
too much about him fighting at school, but he would never hear the end of
getting beaten by a girl. Well shit, how was he supposed to know she was into
freakin’ karate or kung fu or whatever? And she didn’t beat him, he just wasn’t
expecting it. She just surprised him that’s all.
And anyway, what was her problem?
It was just a joke. It was just a little boob grab. He knew guys like Deek who
did that all the time. Walk down the halls, grab an ass, feel a girl up. Those
chicks always giggled and maybe shoved back a little, in a playful way. They
didn’t go berserk and turn into vengeful teenage warrior goddesses.
Ashley, that was what Mr. Sink had called
her. She was curled up in a chair on the far side of the office, as far away
from him as she could get, almost with her back to him. A cell phone chimed
some synthesized classical music, and she fished a flip phone out of her butt
She did have a nice ass, Jack
A fast, shrill buzz sounded on the
other end of the line.
Buzz buzz buzz.
“No, I’m okay. I know. No. I’ll see
you tonight. No, Mom, I’m okay.” She gave a short, nervous laugh. “I beat the
snot out of him.”
“Bitch!” Jack muttered, “You just
got lucky. I wasn’t trying to fight cause I don’t hit girls.”
She ignored him.
“I know. I’m fine. Love you too.
See you tonight. Bye.”
She snapped the phone shut and put
it away, turning even further away from him. He pulled out his phone and
started playing “Angry Birds.”
Five minutes later he heard a Bruce
Lee kung-fu yell coming from her pocket. It was her cellphone again. She
answered, “Hey Dad,” without checking the number.
This buzz was deeper and slower.
The girl hugged herself and sank even more deeply into her chair. Jack, for his
part, lounged even more emphatically, stretching himself further out into the
office. Phone calls from two parents? What a momma’s girl!
“Yeah. I’m okay,” but she sniffed
back a tear.
The phone buzzed a question.
“He…” she swallowed. “He grabbed
“Around my chest.”
“But it’s okay, Dad.”
“No, I know, but I got him good.
Then the jerk tried to come after me again. I hip tossed him really hard.”
“Me too.” Her voice got lower and quieter.
“I wish you were here, Dad. I need a hug.”
The buzz was deep and soothing.
Jack found himself wishing he could hear what it was saying, in spite of
“Really?” Ashley said. He could
hear the smile in her voice. “When? Okay. I will see you when you get here.
Thanks, Dad. Love you too.” She closed the phone with a smile.
About an hour later a tall man in
his mid-forties walked into the office. Jack didn’t like the look of him. He
was wearing khakis, button up shirt and tie, but he didn’t look like someone
you messed with. He looked like he was over six feet tall, with wide shoulders
and long arms. His hands were slender, but looked strong. He carried himself
like an athlete with upright head, alert eyes, moving from his hips like the
guys on the wrestling team. Not the kind of guy Jack really wanted to have
pissed off at him.
But Mr. Tildford did not even look
at him or at Ms. Hagg. He walked straight towards Ashley’s chair like a man on
a mission. She didn’t hear him coming until he was almost there, but when she
turned and saw him she leapt up and jumped into his arms in a flying hug. He
caught her and hugged her back, holding her face against his chest and
smoothing her hair. “Hey Ash,” he said. “It’s okay. I’m here.”
How long were they going to hug,
Jack thought. Was she crying? What a
baby! He rolled his eyes and looked away with burning cheeks.
“You okay?” Mr. Tildford said.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” She nodded and
brushed her hair back behind her ear.
“What are we waiting for?”
“Mr. Merckle said we had to sit
here until he was ready to deal with us.”
“Oh, really? The message I got was
you were suspended.”
“What!?!?” Her jaw dropped and she clasped
her hands to her cheeks. “Suspended? I didn’t do anything. He didn’t even give
me a chance to explain.”
Jack sighed and dropped his head in
his hands. Suspended. Now his dad was really going to blow a gasket.
“Right. Well, I think we should have
a talk with him, shall we.” Mr. Tildford stepped over to Ms. Hagg’s desk.
“Could you let Mr. Merckle know that Dan Tildford is here to see him.”
“Certainly Mr. Tildford.” She
relayed the message into her phone.
“Send him in,” boomed back, cracked
and staticky but clearly audible.
“You may go in, right through that
door, Sir,” Ms. Hagg pointed with her pen.
“Thank you. Come on Ashley.”
Jack watched them go in and lounged
as far back as he could in his chair. His
butt was hanging off the seat and his legs were stretched out into the aisle. Back
to the Angry Birds, then. He didn’t expect his dad to be around any time soon.
He didn’t get off shift until 4:00.
About ten minutes later, Ms. Hagg
got a call. She looked up and called Jack’s name. “Please go into Mr. Merckle’s
office. He wants to talk to you.”
What did they want with him? Jack
slouched to his feet.
“Mr. Snyder, come in, sit down.”
Mr. Merckle pointed him to a chair. “Mr. Tildford thinks you should be here for
this. Now, continue Mr. Tildford.”
“Call me Dan.”
“All I’m saying is, I really think
you should listen to what these two have to say before suspending them.”
The principle shook his head and
smiled condescendingly. “Dan, do you know how many troubled students come
through this office on a weekly basis? Do you know how much time it would take
for me to listen to every single one? Our policies are very clear, fighting is
not tolerated. The penalty is suspension. I really am not interested in what
they have to say. They will be given a letter explaining the policy and terms
of the penalty.”
“So you are not interested in, say,
who started it?”
Mr. Merckle sat up stiffly and
frowned. I guess he’s not used to being argued with, Jack thought. “Excuse me,
but I don’t think it matters who started it.”
“Oh excuse me, but yes it
absolutely does.” Dan scooted his chair forward a couple of inches closer to the
desk. “If my daughter is attacking random people and abusing her karate skills
then I need to know so I can ground her and remove her from karate class. If,
on the other hand, she is defending herself or someone else from bullying or
“Really, Mr. Tildford…”
“As I said, if she is defending
herself or someone else as I have taught her to do, then we are going on a
father-daughter date this weekend, wherever she wants.”
Jack almost snorted but silenced it.
It wasn’t that he was afraid of Dan, but he didn’t feel like drawing attention
“Mr. Tildford,” the principle
shifted and glanced at the clock on the wall. “I understand that teenagers can
sometimes be insecure about some peer interactions in school. We have school
counselors who are trained to assess and intervene in situations like that.
However, we do not believe in using violence to solve our problems.”
“Who is ‘We?’” Dan looked
irritated. He was leaning back in his chair with his hands folded in front of
him, tapping his index fingers together, and the muscle in his jaw was bulging.
Why the hell do I need to be here
to listen to this, Jack thought.
“Who is ‘we?’” Dan repeated. “You
said ‘we’ don’t believe in violence. Do you mean the people in this room? Or
maybe us as a society? Or are you just using the royal we?”
“Mr. Tildford! If you are not going
to discuss this in a reasonable fashion I will have to ask you to leave. My
time is extremely valuable.” He was using his food-fight stopping voice.
“So is mine,” Dan shot back, not
the least bit phased, “I had to reschedule two patients this afternoon to be
here and you will damn sure do us the courtesy of listening to both sides of
this story before you pass judgment on my daughter.”
Jack raised his eyebrows and
allowed himself a little smirk of satisfaction. It was good to see someone put
the principle in his place for once.
Mr. Merckle swallowed a shocked
expression. “All right, fine. What do you two have to say for yourself?”
Dan looked at Jack. “Go ahead, son.
I’m not your freakin’ son, Jack
thought. “It was just a joke!”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing. I just, like, touched her
“How did you touch my daughter?”
Jack shut his mouth. Something in
the tall man’s eyes made him extremely reluctant to answer that question.
“He grabbed my… breasts. From
behind.” Her face was scarlet.
“Is that true?” Dan turned a
clenched jaw towards Jack.
“It was just a joke. She didn’t
have to freak out about it.”
“No? And why didn’t she have to
freak out about it?”
“Shit, that stuff happens all the
time. Everybody does it.”
“Who is everybody?” The questions
came at him almost before he could finish his replies.
“All the guys. It’s just, like, I
don’t know, flirting.”
“Hell no, it is not flirting! Do
you know what that’s called in the workplace? Or anywhere else in the real
world outside this school? That’s called sexual assault, and it’s a crime. It
results in fines, jail time and potentially being labeled a sexual predator for
the rest of your life.”
“Come on!” Jack’s voice cracked. He
suddenly remembered horror stories he had heard about guys getting put on watch
lists for silly things like peeping in windows and stuff. Sweat was breaking
out all over his back. “Come on, I’m not a predator! It was a dare. I didn’t even
want to. A friend made me do it.”
“Do you think that will hold up in
court in the real world,” Dan’s voice wasn’t loud, but it was hard as ice, and
his eyes were blazing.
The principle broke in. “Mr.
Tildford, aren’t you being a little severe? You cannot threaten this boy with
being labeled as a sexual predator, ruining his life forever, because of a
“Mr. Merckle, I am not planning on
ruining anything or labeling anyone. We have no intention of seeking legal
action. I am doing this kid a favor by reminding him that outside the narrow
walls of this school, actions like that have consequences.” Dan was leaning
forward, stabbing his finger into the top of the principle’s desk to emphasize
his point. “He had better wise up before
that real world catches up with him.” He sat back again and turned to Ashley.
“What happened, Ash?”
“He grabbed my breasts from behind.
I elbowed him and knocked him back with a mae giri. I yelled, ‘back off creep,’
like you taught us. He tried to grab me again so I knocked him back again. But
then he tried to grab me again with both hands, so I took him down and dropped
a knee on him. Then I got away. That’s what you taught, right?”
“Yep,” Dan’s face seemed to smile
in spite of him. “You did good.”
“Mr. Tildford, I repeat that this
school cannot condone fighting. There are other ways of settling our
“No offense, Mr. Merckle, but that
is the dumbest thing I ever heard. You just heard this boy confess to sexually
assaulting a girl half his size, and not only that, but he boasted that this is
a normal occurrence in this school. It ‘happens all the time.’”
The principle’s face was glowing
red and a vein was pulsing on his forehead. “Don’t you think ‘sexual assault’
is a harsh description for a teenage prank?”
“Not at all. I think that is the
technical legal description. I am a fourth degree black belt in Shotokan
Karate, and I teach a self-defense course for women and minors every week.
Placing your hands upon another person against their will is technically
considered assault and battery, under law. Doing so for the purpose of sexual
gratification is sexual assault. That is what he would be charged with if he
did that in a military unit, or an office, or on the street somewhere.”
“This is not a military unit, an
office, or the street. This is highschool…”
“A highschool that is failing
royally in not preparing this boy for the real world.” He turned to Jack. “How
old are you, son?”
“Fifteen,” Jack muttered, “And I’m
not your freakin’ son.”
“I am sorry. Fifteen? You look
older. I would have guessed 16 or 17,” Dan turned back to the principle. “In
three years, he is going to be a legal majority and something like this will
get him put in prison for a long, long time.” He stabbed his finger into the
desk with every word, and then paused to let that thought sink in. “Not to
mention it will ruin his life afterwards, being put on a sexual predator watch
list. ‘Harmless pranks’ like this have a way of sticking with you.”
“Your opinion is duly noted,” Mr.
Merckle snapped. “Did he do wrong? Yes. That does not justify the use of
“There we will have to agree to
disagree. What you are telling me is that sexual harassment and abuse is
rampant in this school, that the young girls here are powerless to protect
themselves, and that the school faculty does absolutely nothing to protect them
or put a stop to it.”
Mr. Merckle was silent.
“Can you understand why this is
frustrating to me? As a father of a teenage daughter?”
“I understand that this is
emotionally disturbing for you…” the principle began.
“Don’t give me that. Emotionally
disturbing? Hell yeah it is emotionally disturbing!” He sighed and rested his
chin in his hand, propped up on the arm of his chair. “I am not going to change
your mind, am I? I think we’re done here. I’ve made my case and you have
confirmed my opinion of this school. What is your decision?”
Jack was watching the exchange,
almost holding his breath. And this dude was a black belt in karate? Shit! I
hope I never piss him off. Wait, I already have. Way to go, me!
Mr. Merckle shrugged and held out
his palms, helplessly. “The policies of this school. We cannot tolerate
“So you are suspending these two?”
“I have no alternative. I cannot
make exceptions for one student that I will not make for another.”
Dan sighed. “For how long.”
“Our policy for first time
offenders is three days.”
“Well, Ash, looks like you’ll just
have to go help Tanner Sensei at the dojo for the next three days, after your
homework is done, of course.”
“Bummer,” Ashley said, trying not
“You have a nice day, Mr. Merckle,”
Dan shot straight up to his feet and strode out the door, followed by his
daughter. He stuck his head back in. “Oh, and one more thing. My brother in law
is editor of the Summersville Dispatch. If I ever hear that my daughter was
sexually harassed in this school again, you can bet he will be hearing about
it. And that goes not just for my daughter but any other girl in this school.
And you can also expect to hear about this at the next school board meeting. I
suggest you come up with a plan to do something about it.” The office shook as
he slammed the door.