Paint it Black
Home Up Rescue


Book One:



Written by Rick Archer

  2015, Richard Archer




After the freak basketball injury, I couldn't wait any longer.  Whatever was wrong with my face, it was serious.  But there was no money in my house.  I knew my mother was broke. Not only was she out of a job, she was also facing a much-needed hysterectomy.

Desperate, I called my father for help.  Considering the deep resentment I felt for him, this required a different kind of courage.  I still hated my father for turning his back on me in the 6th grade and refusing to keep me at St. John's.

But I had no choice.  The constant burning had eroded all my defiance.  I swallowed my pride and begged for help. 

To my vast relief, Dad stepped up to the plate.  He said his insurance would pay 80% of my treatment.  He said he would go ahead and pick up the remainder of the tab.  I had never been so grateful in my life.   

Yes, thanks to my father, one week after the outbreak, I finally went to see a dermatologist.  Unfortunately, the situation was too far out of control for any quick fix.  Days turned into weeks.  Weeks turned into months.  It would take six months of tetracycline and radiation treatments to get the entrenched inflammation under control. 

Every visit Dr. Spiller would shake his head and say, "What a shame you didn't come to me sooner."

I just wanted to strangle him.

My freshman year was ruined.  From October 1964 till the end of the 9th grade school year, I walked the halls with my face of leprosy.

As one would expect, I received strange stares from people whenever they saw me for the first time.  Some looks would be that of confusion, others would convey a sense of involuntary revulsion. 

One day on a Saturday morning, I rode my bike to a classmate's house.  Frank and I were going to work on a biology project.  However, Frank had forgotten to tell his mother I was coming.  Frank's mother heard the knock on the door.  When she opened the door, she inadvertently gasped.  I cringed as she covered her mouth to hide her shock.  The poor woman bent over backwards to apologize and I certainly bore her no ill will.  But I could not get her look of horror out of my mind.

It was incidents like these that reinforced my growing self-image as the creepy loser kid.

To my chagrin, the problem lingered long past the 9th grade.  In the 10th grade, Harold became a freshman and took a special delight in tormenting me.  Harold's cruel barbs about "Dead Eye Dick", "Dickless", and "The Clearasil Kid" touched right on my most sensitive nerve.  I was overcome by an overwhelming sense of ugliness and inferiority.  It doesn't take much imagination to see why I felt like such a hideous leper.

I felt rejection in many different ways.  One particular area of awkwardness took place on Friday nights after our home football games. The Saint John's Mother's Guild sponsored dance parties for the Upper School after each home football game.

These dance parties were held at the various River Oaks mansions of my classmates.  As a student at St. John's, I had every right to attend these Friday night dance parties.  Considering how much I wanted to see how rich people lived, I went to every one of these parties despite my appearance.

The splendor of these modern castles was a sight to behold.  I was impressed by the beautiful artwork, the landscaping, and the expensive furniture.

I had another reason to attend.  I went because I liked to watch my classmates dance.  Although I didn't dare participate in the dancing, I enjoyed seeing my classmates dance.  I smiled as they tried to outdo each other on the latest moves and how they laughed and teased each other's attempts. 

I would sit there and daydream about the day my curse would be lifted.  Maybe someday I could be happy like they were.  But then I would snap back to reality and remember how sad I felt all the time.

When I would appear at the entrance to these River Oaks homes, I would invariably receive a polite but frosty reception.  I didn't know if it was my clothing, my lack of confident demeanor or my permanent Freddy Krueger Halloween mask that tipped them off, but I received stares that made me feel uncomfortable. 

My impression was these wealthy women who were greeting me could not believe someone who looked like me could possibly be a St. John's student.  In a way they were right.  Any mother but mine would have sent her child straight to the doctor and put a stop to this problem before it could take root.

Try to imagine the stares I would get.  What did these women think as they greeted this pathetic kid who dared walk up the sidewalk to the homes of the rich and powerful?  There I was with my bloated, blotchy face covered with a red sea of angry pimples and pus-filled white caps.  Just the memory makes me sick.  The pain has not passed with years.  Oh, what a sight I must have been. 

I took note of every subtle frown and every dirty look as I approached their home.  The incredulous looks said to me, "Who on earth are you?  You can't possibly be a St. John's student."  

I met several parents at St. John's who were class acts, but my overriding memory were the snobs who acted like they were doing me a serious favor by allowing this pitiful child into their homes.   No doubt they had done their good deed for the year.


In the 10th grade, one woman actually challenged me.  To my surprise, I was more impressed than angry.  She was so clever about it.  I suppose this woman had become suspicious because she had seen me shuffling down her street like a homeless person.  I had ridden my bike over after the game and hidden it in a thick clump of bushes.  Then I walked to her home. 

Since these parties were held in the River Oaks neighborhood near school, I didn't have far to go.  As I approached this modern day castle in the dark, I walked up with my head down and my shoulders slumped. 

No doubt my body language conveyed my apology for disgracing her mansion with my presence.  I was always full of dread at these unavoidable greetings.  As I reached the steps, I raised my head to the light.

The lady at the door could not have guessed my appearance.  However, once she got a good look at me, this lady did the usual hand to mouth gasp and double-take.  I had taken her completely off guard with my looks.


This lady recovered quickly.  In an instant, she regained her friendly mask.

Now she stuck out her hand and greeted me cordially.  "Hello, I'm Mrs. Anderson.  And you are?"

"My name is Richard Archer."  I hated using 'Dick', my nickname.  I yearned to find a way to get rid of it.

"Welcome to my home, Richard.  I don't believe I've met you before.  And what class might you be in?"

I said I was a sophomore. 

"Oh, really?" she said sweetly, "Isn't Susan Templeton in your class?"  

Since there were only fifty kids in my class, I knew the name of every student.  For that matter, I knew their class ranking and their likely socioeconomic order as well.  There was no 'Susan Templeton'.  So I assumed this lady was trying to trick me. 

I was fairly certain Mrs. Anderson expected me to panic and lie, "Oh sure, I know Susan well!  Susan and I are old friends."

I looked at the woman and said, "Susan Templeton transferred to Lee High School a year ago." 

The woman's happy face slipped imperceptibly as I called her bluff. 

Mrs. Anderson replied, "Oh really?  I didn't know that, Richard.  Well, thank you for telling me.  Why don't you come in?  I hope you enjoy your party."

And with that she moved aside to signal permission.  With her false smile ushering me in, I could tell she was disappointed.  I suspected that behind her Friendly Face she was disgusted at being forced to allow Leper Boy into her home.  No doubt the maid would be told to Lysol every place I touched in the morning.

But I had to hand it to her; this lady was smooth.  She never once let on that she had been playing an entry trick on me.

Now I smiled politely and went inside.  The fact that the woman had tried to trip me up helps to explain why I felt unwelcome at these events.  It is a good thing I had so much defiance in me or I would have never made it through these awful years.




In the spring of my Freshman year, the pimples finally started to fade.  After six months of radiation treatment and tetracycline, the Red Sea finally began to dry up. For a young boy, this attack had absolutely devastated my confidence and self-esteem.  I could hardly wait to see what I looked like with the acne gone.

I never suspected the cruelest blow was yet to come.  As the pimples slowly vanished, like a receding glacier they left behind a series of peaks and valleys in my skin.  I was full of despair to discover my face was permanently pockmarked worse than the cratered landscape on the Moon.  I was beyond sick.  It was one thing to withstand a temporary shame, but this scarring was permanent. 

I couldn't bear the thought of looking like this for the rest of my life. 

Fortunately, my doctor offered me some hope.  He recommended I undergo a dermabrasion operation to restore my ravaged face to at least some normalcy. 

I begged my father to pay for this operation.  Thank goodness he said okay.

I wanted the operation immediately, but Dr. Spiller said it would be best to wait for the summer between my freshman and sophomore year to do the operation.  He said my face would be full of thick scabs that would prevent me from going to school.  The scabs would take at least two weeks before they came off.

Summer arrived and with it came this much-anticipated skin planing operation.  This was the moment I had been waiting for.  I was so desperate.  This was my only hope!  I wanted so badly to look normal again. 

The operation wasn't pleasant.  The doctor sprayed my skin with some extremely cold liquid, then he began to sand all the skin off my face.  I developed a thick crust of scabs.  I looked so ridiculous that I was confined to home. 

One day I got stir crazy and had to leave the house.  So I got a grocery bag and cut two holes in it.  Once I put the bag on, I realized how silly it was to cut two holes when I only had one eye.  I walked around the neighborhood to relieve the tension.  I remember talking with Jane, the girl next door, with the bag over my head. I told Jane I was living on pins and needles hoping this treatment worked.

I had a huge crush on Jane.  She went to Lamar.  Not only was Jane super-bright, she was pretty.  She was also kind of shy like me.  I liked that a lot.  Maybe when these scabs healed, my looks would return and I could ask her out.  This thought kept me going throughout the two weeks prior to the unveiling.

I couldn't bear to wait any longer.  I was so nervous.  I had to know what I looked like!!   It took two weeks, but eventually the skin healed and the crust began to loosen.  Bit by bit the crust fell off, revealing pink new skin underneath. 

The early results were not promising.  I could still see deep pockmarks.  I could barely contain my disappointment.  It was all for naught.  The first operation had come nowhere close to making my face normal again.

I would peg the improvement at 50%, but considering how serious the problem had been, we still had a long way to go.  I was miserable.   Jane would have to wait.  I wouldn't dream of talking to a girl looking like this.

So I begged my father for a second operation over the Christmas break of my sophomore year.  Finally he relented. 

Again there was improvement, but again the job was incomplete.  My second skin planing operation had left the job 25% unfinished.  The doctor promised he could handle the remaining problems with one more operation.  Dr. Spiller felt sorry for me enough to offer a half-price discount. 

So I turned to my father and pleaded for the third operation.  My father said no, the insurance deductible had run out.  This was a new year and he would have to pay a new deductible.  In his opinion, two operations were close enough.  No more.  His advice was to learn to live with it.  So I never got a shot at the third operation.

And with that, I was locked into my moonscape face for the rest of my life.  

I returned to school in January 1966 for the second half of my Sophomore year feeling deeply dejected.  I was really in the dumps.

When I looked around, it didn't help that practically every one of my classmates had magically acquired new cars for Christmas presents.  Brand new Mustangs, Thunderbirds, and GTOs lined the parking lot.  These kids were barely old enough to drive and they already had their own car.  Wealth did have its advantages. 

With the influx of cars came a sense of freedom plus an increased opportunity to date.  Suddenly there was a flurry of romance among my classmates.  Several of them paired off and began walking down the halls hand in hand.  As I watched their excitement, the envy was difficult to bear.  I too had hoped to begin dating in my Sophomore year when my face healed.  However, as I stared in the mirror, that was out of the question.  Despite the improvement, I believed I looked repulsive. 

So what did other people think about my appearance?  My mother said I didn't look that bad.  Not exactly a ringing endorsement.  Mr. Curran, my favorite teacher, commented one day that I looked much better.  That brought a smile to my face.  I was surprised I still knew how to smile. 

To tell the truth, it didn't matter what other people said.  I couldn't stand to look at myself in the mirror.  The shame I felt when staring at my face was unbearable.  I believed I was ugly and that feeling was absolutely unshakeable.  Let me add that psychological scars are much harder to heal than facial scars.  Once a leper, always a leper.

I did not believe it was remotely possible for a girl to be interested in me looking like this.  Considering my social backwardness at this school, dating would have been an uphill struggle to begin with, but with a face like this, it was beyond hopeless.  What girl in her right mind wanted to be seen walking the halls hand in hand with the Creepy Loser Kid?  

The shame that vision brought to me was unbearable.

I threw in the towel.  I declared the fair young ladies of St. John's totally off-limits.  My mind snapped shut to any possibility. 

Now that all hope of ever dating was gone, a terrible thick shell began to grow around me.  Slowly but surely I grew hard and cold.  The acne made me feel like a hideous person.  My pain caused everything in my world to turn a deeper shade of black. 


Trust me, there was an sixteen month stretch when my ugliness was real.  This was not my imagination.  During the worst part in my Freshman year, I was truly the teenage werewolf.  As people avoided me like the plague, I felt every bit the monster.

Every day my loneliness became more acute.  Slowly but surely, that loneliness turned into bitterness.  Many waking moments were filled with rage at my helplessness.  I was consumed with self-pity.  A bitter darkness came over me.   What had I ever done to deserve this? 

Okay, so I stole some candy bars from a grocery store in the 8th grade and some Batman comics from a convenience store.  And yes I stole that kid's sports jacket.  Surely those crimes were not serious enough to justify an entire lifetime as the disfigured Phantom of the Opera.

I had been a hopeful, optimistic kid at the start of my Freshman year, but this teenage curse had changed all that.  I now lived in a state of desperation as I tried to deal with the knowledge I would be ugly for the rest of my life. 

While other kids my age were having fun, I would watch from the sidelines for my entire four years of high school. My battered face was a handicap I simply could not overcome, maybe not even if I had the remarkable Mrs. Ballantyne offering her wisdom.  "Life is tough; get used to it!"

Memories of kids shunning me like a leper would always haunt me.  A sullen anger against the world began to burn within me.  I was locked in an endless depression as I watched all those hopes for high school evaporate before my eyes. 




I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door, I must have it painted black
Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts
It's not easy facing up when your whole world is black

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors any more, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

-- Rolling Stones, Paint it Black

After my father shut the door on all further hope in January 1966, by coincidence, Paint it Black was being released.  This angry, bitter song quickly became my anthem.   Although the school colors for St. John's were red and black, during the second half of my sophomore year the only color I saw was pure black. 

Harold had entered my life with his "Creepy Loser Kid" taunt.  He took delight at tormenting me at every turn.  That nasty label upset me no end.  How could I get this awful bitterness out of my soul?

I was stuck in a trap from which there seemed no escape.  I was the poorest boy in school.  I was the ugliest boy in school.  I had the least charm and quite possibly the lowest self-esteem of any boy.  I looked like a leper and my fellow students ignored me.  My feelings of loneliness and inferiority were overpowering.  Basketball would not save me from this.  Nothing could save me from this.

Socially speaking, I was doomed.

I was having angry thoughts that were starting to scare me.  When I compared my dotted face and crooked teeth to my attractive classmates with their perfect smiles, perfect teeth, and perfect complexions, there were times when I felt exactly like the creepy loser kid. 

Whenever I was around the sophisticated women of the Mother's Guild or my confident classmates with their shiny cars, I felt so inadequate.  How could I ever measure up to these people who were so clearly superior to me? 

The locker room shower fight with Harold took place early in the second half of my Sophomore year.  The fight affected me terribly.  Harold's taunts confirmed my worst nightmare that some people thought I was repulsive.  The thought that students like Harold believed I was a 'creepy loser kid' was appalling.  How could I possibly change their minds?   I had no answer to that question. There were certainly no image-improving miracles in my bag of tricks.

After the shower room fight, I fully expected Harold would be gunning for a rematch.  I also expected Harold's taunts to continue.  I became paranoid enough to begin watching over my shoulder.  I was certain Harold would try to jump me to gain the upper hand.  I was so touchy and defensive that any student's suspicious glance put me on aggressive alert. 

As I waited for the sneak attack, my anger intensified.  I was sullen and looking for someone to give me an excuse to take my anger out on.  Creepy loser kid or not, I was not about to take crap off of anyone.  I intended to slap the next person to laugh at me into submission. 

People in the hallways gave me a wide berth.  Do you blame them?  I have little doubt the hostile, suspicious expression on my face made me difficult to approach.

paranoia as my constant companion, I was convinced I needed to prepare somehow. 

A week or so after my fight, I saw an old beat-up set of weights at a garage sale on my bike ride home.  Ten bucks.  Heck, even I could afford that.  I had to ride my bike back and forth four times to get the full set home, but that night I started lifting weights.  Since basketball was out of the question, now weightlifting became my afternoon passion.  Not only did it help work off some frustration, it helped me feel safer.

It wasn't like I had much else to do.  Looking like this, I spent every spare moment in hiding.

As my muscles grew, my shell thickened as well. 

College offered hope for a new start, but college was more than two years away.  I had already given up on high school.  I felt so beaten, why even bother trying to be friendly at school?  Locked into my role as "Dick", the students at my school would always see me as poor, ugly and unsophisticated.  Bad first impressions are tough enough to overcome, but my role as the creepy loser kid was insurmountable.

Full of self-pity at the futility of my situation, I continued to lift weights and build the wall around me even higherI was well on my way to transforming myself into a teenage Hulk. 

The shower fight in the early part of the 10th grade had turned my former sanctuary into a potential battleground.  Wherever I walked, I looked for danger.  I hesitated at every hallway junction lest I walk into a sneak attack.  I fully expected all three boys would participate.  Three against one is tough enough, so I couldn't dare allow them to surprise me or corner me.  Always making sure I had a place to retreat to, I refused to let my guard down. 

Where would they come from?  When?  To deal with my angry feelings and my fear of attack, I armed for battle.  I spent an hour every night pumping iron and cursing the scars on my face.  My face didn't improve, but my body did.  I began to fill out. 

Soon enough, I had shoulders as wide as my frown.  I was as big as any starting linebacker on our football team.

Unfortunately my new-found muscles didn't protect me from myself.  The muscles proved to be no compensation for my lost self-esteem. 

I was my own worst enemy.  My body was strong, but my mind was weak.  Every day my inner demons came to haunt me.  Whenever there was an idle moment, I was tormented by dark thoughts. 

It might be two girls who giggled just after passing me in the hall.  What were they laughing at?  Paint it black.

I might be staring at a pretty girl only to see her frown when she noticed my gaze.  Paint it black.

Some days I spent lamenting my fate as the poorest kid in the entire school.  I rode a bicycle to school.  They drove a Mustang.  Paint it black.

Other days I cursed the fact that some kids had parents like Mrs. Ballantyne.  Look who I was stuck with.  Mom the Scarlet Pimple Popper.  Paint it black.

Another day I might wonder for the millionth time how I would ever be able to afford to pay for college.  These kids had nothing to worry about.  Paint it black.

I was full of regret over my blind eye that prevented me from playing sports at St. John's.  Now that I had filled out, I would have earned a starting position on any sports team.  Paint it black.

Scar face.  Blind eye.  Inferior.  Invisible.  Unwelcome.

It's not easy facing up when your whole world is black




I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes... I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

More than anything else, I cursed my fear of dating the pretty girls at my school.  During my freshman and sophomore year, I had turned my face away in shame whenever an attractive girl came near.  For two years now, it had been look but don't touch.  My loneliness was overwhelming at times.   The sad thing is that I was attracted to several girls in my class, but I was far too scared to say a word. 

What held me back?  In my mind, the girls in my class could only see me in my role as the Invisible Man or the Creepy Loser Kid.  It would take a real leap of faith on their part to see me in any other light.  Why would they even give me the time of day?  I could not imagine how these rich girls could see any potential in me worthy of their attention. 

I was the ugliest boy in a school full of beautiful people.  I was the werewolf situated among the genetically-superior sons and daughters of Houston's elite. 

No girl was going to date me for my athletic prowess... no one even had a clue that I was a good athlete.  Nor was any girl going to date me for my personality... I didn't have one.  My dating chances were beyond hopeless.

I was a tough, joyless kid bristling with hostility.  Why would any girl take a chance on me?  There would be no Beauty and the Beast scenarios for me.  Leave that to fairy tales.  I simply could not bear the thought of rejection by one of these modern Princesses. 


So I gave up.  I never said a word.  My cowardice bothered me no end.  "Would you like to go out to a movie sometime?"   One look at my face and they might break out laughing.  

I would go to the dance parties after our home football games and hide in the shadows.  When the music came on, oh, I cannot begin to say how much I wanted to get out there and dance!  

Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Beatles, Motown.  What great dance music! 

I hated myself the most when I saw my classmates enjoying themselves on the dance floor at those parties.  I was so envious.   It killed me to watch the boys touch the girls when they danced.  I wanted to dance so much, I could barely keep myself from jumping up and joining them.  As I watched them dance, the girls' laughter and smiles made it clear I was missing out on something special.  I knew I would never have this chance again.  I was wasting what should have been my exciting years of discovery.

However, I didn't think teenage werewolves were welcome on the dance floor. 

Besides, I didn't know how to dance.  How was I supposed to learn?  How did my classmates learn?

I had an enormous fear of looking spastic.  I was certain any girl would break out in a fit of laughter at my clumsiness.  Furthermore, even if I could dance a little, where was I going to get the courage to ask some girl to join me on the floor?  Surely once we got out on the floor, someone would make fun of me and embarrass us both. 

Plagued by my fears, I stayed invisible in the darkness and burned at my cowardice.


The wall around me grew higher and higher.  Inside the wall, my misery grew.

Why didn't anyone ever speak to me?  There is a real possibility the story of the shower fight might have spooked people.  Although the shower fight was the only time I ever lost my temper in high school, no one was going to take any chances.  Nor could I blame them.   Between my scar face, brooding countenance, massive shoulders and reputation as a fighter, I surely resembled a walking powder keg.

Inside I was tense, worried, and bitter.  Thank goodness no one ever lit my fuse.  If someone had rubbed me the wrong way with some more choice words about my face, I might have gone ballistic.  Fortunately, that one fight incident was enough to scare everyone off. 

The transformation was complete; I had become The Hulk.  I was always on the lookout for the next insult.  Don't tread on me!   That attitude might explain why everyone my age at school left me alone.  They had their own problems; why bother with that creepy loser kid? 

The only time I spoke at my school was during class discussions.  At lunch I hung out with several boys who were almost as shy as I was.  We played chess and stayed to ourselves. 

The rest of the time, I could not help but feel invisible.  I was here at this school every day, but no one noticed.

I was too lost in my own problems to realize my isolation was by and large my own fault.  I was responsible for keeping everyone at arm's length, but I didn't have the sense to figure it out.  Who on earth would dare approach such a hostile, angry-looking kid?  And since I was too scared to make the first move, I was left alone to wallow in my self-pity

I was very frightened of losing my temper.

Would I be able to handle more taunting?  Or would I fall off the deep end and lose control like I had in the shower room?  I had come within an inch of kicking that kid in the face while he was helpless on the floor.  I could have hurt him badly and gotten into a lot of trouble.   If the next situation was as bad as the shower scene, I had no idea just how much self-control I had left.

Modern day readers might wonder if I was Columbine Crazy.  I can certainly see the parallels.  Loneliness, alienation, bitterness, anger. 

Fortunately, that wasn't me.  I wasn't a bad kid, just a lonely one.  There was a big difference between those monsters at Columbine and my situation at St. John's... I loved my teachers at St. John's. 

Nor did I have an issue with a single student at SJS other than Harold... and he left school at the end of my sophomore year.   Yeah, everyone ignored me, but oh well, I wasn't so fragile that I couldn't handle that.  My anger was real, but it was mostly directed at my own dilemma.  I never once had fantasies of deliberately hurting anyone or picking a fight.

That said, I will admit I was a danger if someone had picked another fight.  Fortunately, there were no more incidents.  I think the weight lifting was a good idea.  It practically guaranteed no one would dream of saying another cross word to me.  There wasn't a single boy significantly bigger than me and certainly no one with a bigger frown. 

The sad thing is that it was all a front.  I wanted to show the people at my school that I wasn't really a creepy loser kid.  I wanted the respect of my classmates in the worst way.  But I didn't know how to get that respect.

I had hate in me, but it wasn't directed at anyone other than my parents and myself.  I just hated my life, that's it in a nutshell.  My father was nowhere in sight and I had begun to argue with my mother on a daily basis.  My bitterness towards her regarding the acne crisis had really soured our relationship. 

I was starved for attention.  I was desperate for praise.  What I really needed more than anything else in the world was someone to pat me on my back and appreciate me for how hard I was working in school. 

I needed reassurance.  I was a really scared kid.  Thanks to my isolation, I had no one to talk to about college.  I was growing more and more worried about how I would ever pay for college.

Worst of all, my fondness for Saint John's was diminishing because I no longer felt welcome there.  Yes, my teachers liked me, but no one else did.  Every day had become a drudgery. 

There was a real chance that I might explode if I could not find some way to defuse the tension of my sophomore year.  

In particular, there was one young man I fixated on.  His name was George.  He was a couple years ahead of me in school.  George was everything I wanted to be.  George was tall, handsome, and athletic.  He was also funny.  George made people laugh. 

I envied George more than any other boy in school.  While I hung back in the shadows to hide my throbbing, acne-covered face from view, George basked in the sunlight.  George had that gift known as popularity.  George had an easy-going charm that made him irresistible.  Wherever George went, I noticed a flock of pretty girls who followed alongside.  The girls laughed and smiled at his every word.  Considering how lonely I was and how ugly I felt, what I wouldn't have given to have that kind of charm, good looks and popularity.  I wanted to trade places with George in the worst possible way.  George was the Beauty, I was the Beast. 

And then one Friday night, I saw something happen that shook me to the very deepest core of my being. 

St. John's was locked in a tie football game against our arch-rival Kinkaid.  George was playing left end on defense.  Kinkaid ran a sweep around end.  Three players - the ball carrier and two blockers - were headed full speed directly at George.  He was the only man in the way to stop a long gain, but it was three against one.  The ball carrier was partially hidden behind the two blockers.  As the two blockers lowered their bodies to take out George, he saw a small opening between them.  George made an instantaneous decision.  He recklessly threw his body into the narrow gap.  As George tried to jackknife through, one blocker hit George high, the other hit George low. 

The impact broke George's neck. 

Irony of all ironies, George's father was the team physician.  I cannot imagine the terrible pain of watching one's son being broken in half.  I am certain George's father knew almost immediately his son would never walk again.   

I will never forget that moment.  The memory is vivid because it broke my heart.  I started to cry the moment I saw the accident.  As I watched George lie motionless on the field, take a guess how much I wanted to trade places after that.  Here I was, the poor little leper boy with the pock-marked face, feeling boo-hoo sorry for myself all the time.  Meanwhile, the most handsome in the school would never walk again.   Yes, I had been dealt a lousy hand of cards, but it could have been worse... at least I wasn't paralyzed. 

It's not easy facing up when your whole world is black

This terrible accident created a seismic shift in my attitude.  Yes, I was trapped in a deep hole right now, but I had the rest of my life to dig myself out.  I would get a second chance, but not George.  I decided the time had come to get a grip.  I figured as far St. John's was concerned, dating was out of the question.  However, college was a different story.  If my own parents were not going to pay for college, then it was time to take matters into my own hands.  I made the decision to get a job after school. 

No matter how bad it is, as long as there is a second chance, there is hope.  That is message I took away from this terrible accident.  And with that, my darkness cleared. 

As for George, I could not help but think about Fate.  Sure, we all know accidents happen.  But this one had Fate written all over it. 




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