mountain

together in high school classes, placed alphabetically, Burns was
always seated behind me.
Burns:   largest lad of the class of ’39 but almost all of it was
fat.
he was a gross fat fart of a being.

he was on my neck, my back.
I could hear his wheezing breathing.
I could even hear him shifting his flesh about.

he was hell in my brain.
and worst of all the poor dumb fuck thought he was
clever.
always up to his tricks.
like tapping me on the back, handing me a note while
whispering, “it’s from a girl… Mary Lou…she said to pass it
to you…”

“big boy,” said the note, “I want to be with you so bad! I can’t
take my eyes off you!”

then he’d poke me in the back, “hey, hey, she wants you!”

I’d ignore him.

“hey, Hank, what did the priest say when he saw birdshit in
his popcorn?”

“hey, Hank…”

on top of that he had body odor.
he always wore the same thick green wool sweater,
even on the hottest of days.

and after each class he attempted to exit with me, follow me
down the hall.

“hey, Hank, wait a minute…”

he was slow, he had huge feet in square-toed black
shoes and they often banged together and he
stumbled as he walked.

he was lonely but I couldn’t embrace his loneliness,
he made me feel physically and mentally
ill.

I had him on my neck for two years.

then one day he poked me in the back:    “hey, this one’s
from Caroline…”

I opened the note:
“Henry, you are the yummy yummy man of my
dreams!”

I turned in my seat and looked at him.
he wore huge round glasses with thick rims.
his large red wet lips formed into an asinine
grin.

I said, “listen, Burns, if you ever touch me or ever
speak to me or even look at me, I promise you, I am
going to kill you!”

Mrs. Anderson, the English teacher then said, for
all to hear, “Mr. Chinaski, I’ll see you after class.”

and afterwards she looked up at me from her
desk.

“I’ve noticed all that horseplay all term long.    what do you
have to say about it?”

I didn’t answer.

“Mr. Chinaski, I am going to give you an ‘F’ in English.”

“all right…”

“you can go now.”

I didn’t attend that class after that but I still saw Burns in a
couple of other classes and since he didn’t touch me or
speak to me and since I never saw him look at me, I
didn’t have to kill him.

all I heard was his breathing, his wheezing.

and worse, I began to feel guilty as if I had perpetrated some
hideous thing against
him.

I felt as if I had locked him away in some terrible place, in some
dank and punishable area.

but I left him there.

at the back of my neck.

Class of Summer
’39.