Home Up The Visitor


Book One:



Written by Rick Archer

  2015, Richard Archer




My father's $400 bombshell sent me reeling.  Coming on the heels of the cheating incident, I hit a real tailspin.  I knew my father was frugal where I was concerned.  I also warned myself not to get my hopes up too high.  However, even my worst expectation didn't prepare me for this final salute to my worthlessness as his child.

I never expected my father to add insult to injury.  I stared in disbelief as my father explained that my two skin operations, the one good deed he had ever done for me that wasn't legally mandated, had been deducted from his college donation.  So much for his voluntary generosity.

My father claimed the skin smoothing operations had cost somewhere around $2,000.  My memory told me each operation cost $1,000, so the $2,000 quote made sense.  But I remembered something else as well.  I decided to check it out. 

That night I actually talked to my mother for the first time in ages.  I asked her to explain again how my father's medical insurance worked. 

She said something about a $200 deductible and an 80-20 split after that.  In other words, after the initial $200 outlay, his insurance paid 80% of the remaining $1,800.  I did some quick math.  20% of 1800= $360.  $200 + $360 = $560.  I showed the numbers to my mother.  She nodded.

"That looks right.  Your father told me he paid $500 something for your operations."

I had another question.  "How did the insurance work?"

"Your father was legally responsible for all medical bills.  You were covered by his company insurance plan."

"In other words, to some extent Dad was lawfully obligated to help me?"


I asked, "So when his deductible ran out, what would the third operation have cost?"

"I suppose a new $200 plus 20% of the remaining $800.  What is that?"

"If you recall, the doctor was so convinced that one more operation would do the trick, he offered to do the operation for half-price.  So that would be $200 plus 20% of $300.  My father refused my third operation because $260 was too much for him.  Does that sound right to you?"

My mother frowned.  This was not a subject she wanted to discuss due to her guilt over causing the problem in the first place. 

"Yes, I suppose $260 is correct."

I was angry now.  My father claimed to have removed $2,000 from my college fund.  Not only did he lie about that, he wouldn't even pay for the discounted final operation. 

"Was there some understanding between the two of you that my acne operations were to be covered by my college savings?"

"What are you talking about?  Heavens no.  Your father was responsible for all medical bills period.  As for college, there was nothing in the document about college savings.  Anything he gives you is up to him."

That's all I needed to know.  Deep down I knew that the money for skin operations was a bullshit excuse on his part.  I knew my father.  He had used those skin operations as a flimsy excuse for being such a cheapskate on the Sixth Grade Pledge. 

Now I finally knew the truth.  In the six years following his Sixth Grade Pledge, the man had never put a single dime into savings for me.  At lunch today, my father had lied to my face.  I was sure of it.

More than likely, my father figured the day had finally come to get his "Pledge" over with, so what was the easiest way to get me off his back?

Dad simply converted the discontinued child support payments into $400 of cash his wife didn't know about.  By handing me cash, he could escape his wife's wrath and get rid of me at the same time.  In case I protested, he practiced his cock and bull story about the skin operations ahead of time and figured I was too stupid to figure any of it out.  Besides, even if I did figure it out, what difference did it make?  He had no more legal obligation to me.  I was on my own now; his parental obligations were fulfilled.  Good riddance.

The sting would not go away.  My world turned blacker than usual.  Ironically, shortly after this I got news that all three of my college applications had been accepted.  Big deal.  What should have been a joyous moment for me was completely negated by the fact that I had no idea how to pay for these colleges. 

Actually the money issue was just the tip of the iceberg.  The pain of being treated so coldly by my father ripped my heart out.  I sunk into the worst depression since the outbreak of acne back in my Freshman year.

My father had made it clear he was done with me.  Kaput.  Couldn't be bothered.  Dad bought me off with $400.  That was my value to him.  I was filled with disgust.  How pathetic was this man?

At this point, I hit a major tailspin.  The world hated me, so I hated the world back. 




My Foot in the Door strategy had been dealt a major setback.  With the news of my father's limited one-time donation, it was all down to the Jones Scholarship.  This award was my last chance.

Before my father's bad news, I had hoped he would give me enough money to pay for an entire year at Georgetown.  Well, that idea was history.  However, my father's $400 gave me a new idea.  My father's meager donation was just barely enough to allow me to pay for one semester... if I got the Jones Scholarship.   

Georgetown tuition plus room and board would cost $6,000 for a year.  However it had just occurred to me that I only had to pay tuition one semester at a time.  I didn't need the full amount to get my Foot in the Door.  I only needed half... $3,000... to pay my way onto campus. 

My Weingarten's savings would amount to $2,000.  Father's $400 would help.  The Jones Scholarship was worth $1,000 a year, $500 when divided in two.  $2000 + 400 + 500= $2900.  Close enough.  Work-study jobs at Georgetown would do the rest.

If I could get the Jones Scholarship, I was in... for one semester.

One semester would have to do.  The moment I set foot on campus, I would visit the financial aid office.  I would tell them my story and show them my Jones Scholarship.  The scholarship might help me explain "Deadbeat Dad" to them because it would show my high school acknowledged my financial hardship.  I would finish by asking them if there were any campus jobs I could have. 

From there I would spend the first semester getting good grades.  In addition, I would visit that office as often as possible in an attempt to ingratiate myself by looking for further part-time jobs.  I was willing to scramble.  I was willing to do whatever it took to find enough money to finance the first semester at Georgetown.  Once I was there, let the chips fall where they may. 

Once I made it to Georgetown, no one would stop me.  I had incredible ambition.  Just get my foot in the door!

The Jones Scholarship would do the trick.  Receiving this award was make or break.   

I had thought the year of the acne outbreak was the worst year of my life.  However, so far my Senior year of high school had been equally painful thanks to a constant string of bad news and bad moves.  I couldn't take much more disappointment.  Mother and I weren't speaking.  Little Mexico was driving me nuts.  I wasn't doing very well at school either.  I was having trouble getting my homework done thanks to the constant racket in my home. 

I was spiraling out of control and making bad decisions.  So far Mr. Murphy didn't have serious enough disciplinary violations to take stronger action, but it was probably only a matter of time.   I was lucky with the restroom incident in the Chemistry building when Mr. MacKeith decided to look the other way.  Recently I had been caught cheating on the German exam.  Why I had been given a second chance, I didn't know, but there wasn't going to be a third chance. 

But what if there was a next time?   Russian roulette is a dangerous game.  Sooner or later, my luck would run out.  One more misstep would surely mark the end of everything I had worked for.

My self-esteem was barely on the radar.  I still had not forgiven myself for cheating, but the real damage had come from my father.  He had really hurt me.  I felt worthless and betrayed.  I had never felt more alone in my life.  I figured I had pretty much worn out my welcome at St. John's.  In my mind, Georgetown meant a chance to start over and do things right.

The only thing that kept me going was my hope of winning the Jones Scholarship, the key to my Georgetown dream.

As March approached, I had no idea when the announcement for the Jesse Jones scholarship would be announced, but it had to be soon.  After all, students would be basing their college choices on this award.  Consequently I scoured the morning newspaper on a daily basis. 

I was very worried.  Lately I had developed a bad feeling about this award.  I was certain there must be a dark cloud over me.  As for the $400, I was able to admit to myself I knew all along my father would pull a stunt like that.  Now I was sick with worry because I had a similar feeling about the Jones Scholarship.  Awaiting the announcement, I was enveloped in an ominous gloom.  Something was wrong, I was sure of it.

Rationally speaking, it made no sense that I would lose the Jones Scholarship, but I had begun to think I would not win this award.  I based this on the fact that not one single person from St. John's had contacted me.  That didn't make sense.  I had to believe if I was going win this award, I shouldn't have to read about it in the newspaper first. 

Still, you never know.  Maybe I was wrong.  Maybe it was supposed to be a big surprise.  All I knew was that I was really scared.  My uncertainty combined with the importance of this scholarship ratcheted my tension to feverish heights.  This was my last chance!

It was now early March 1968.  Two weeks had passed since my father's smack down.  I knew from tracking this scholarship the past two years that the announcement would come out any day now.  Every morning I would run to the front yard and rip open the Houston Post for news of the results.

Sure enough, one morning I saw the Post had listed the winners.  With my heart thumping, my eyes anxiously scanned for the name of St. John's School down at the bottom of the alphabetical list.  There it was.

Holy smokes!  And the winner from St. John's is.... Richard Archer!!!  






No, actually, that is not what the paper said.  The newspaper said the winner was Katina Ballantyne.

Unbelievable.  My worst nightmare had just come true.  My gut was right all along.  I didn't win the scholarship I had to have.  As my dreams of Georgetown went flying out the window, I was sick beyond sick. 

I paled as I realized my classmate Katina from the mighty Ballantyne clan had been given that scholarship grant instead of me.  

I went numb.  This made no sense.  The first thing that crossed my mind was:

Katina lives in wealthy River Oaks and I live in a Mexican halfway house.  She's rich, I'm poor.  Why didn't I win this award?

I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.  The pain was nearly identical to my father's $400 insult.

Katina Ballantyne?  You mean the same Katina Ballantyne who lives in a mansion in wealthy River Oaks and has a doctor for a father and a socialite for a mother?  The same Katina Ballantyne with six brothers and sisters here at St. John's?  The same Katina Ballantyne who goes up and sweet talks Mr. Salls after German class?  The same Katina Ballantyne whose famous mother walks arm in arm with Mr. Salls every day in the hallway? 

What kind of bullshit is this?

I felt weak.  I sat there on the steps of my mother's barn trying to grasp that my classmate Katina had just been given that scholarship grant instead of me.  I was beyond incredulous. 

I stared in disbelief at the newspaper.  Sure enough, no matter how many times I stared at the results, the paper refused to magically rewrite itself.  The paper continued to insist that none other than Katina Ballantyne had won the scholarship.  There could be no mistake, but I still refused to believe it.

Dumbfounded, I stared some more at the newspaper.  The article said that candidates were nominated by each participating high school.  Then a committee makes the final selection based on scholastic achievement, economic need, community service and leadership.

'Nominated', eh?  I did not know who was in charge of nominations, but it had to be Mr. Salls.  Who else besides Mr. Salls?  Mr. Salls wasn't just the Headmaster, he was also in charge of all things to do with college admissions.  This had to be his doing.

Hmm.  There had always been some sort of connection between Mr. Salls, Katina, and her mother.  In German class, Katina was the only person who wasn't afraid of our stern Headmaster.  In public, Mrs. Ballantyne acted like Mr. Salls' best friend.  This farce had something to do with Mrs. Ballantyne; I was sure of it.  I had always believed Mrs. Ballantyne was the most influential parent in the school.  Well, this proved it.

Katina didn't need the money, I was sure of that.  This had to be about prestige.  Over afternoon tea and coffee in the SJS Commons Room, no doubt today Mrs. Ballantyne would boast that her smart daughter had won the coveted Jones Scholarship.  Her wealthy admirers in the Mother's Guild would surround her and swoon with adulation.  With this grand coup, Mrs. Ballantyne had reinforced her Alpha status exponentially.  After all, how many mothers at the top of the food chain could ever hope to wrangle a scholarship for their 'needy child'?

No one but Mrs. Ballantyne.  

This rip-off had to be an arrangement between Mr. Salls and Mrs. Ballantyne.  I assumed the mighty Mrs. Ballantyne had persuaded her friend in high places to pick her daughter. To hell with the poor kid, let's reward the rich girl who is the darling of this year's Senior class.  There could no be no other explanation.  That explained why no one had ever contacted me.  I never had a chance.  It was a done deal long ago.

Resigned to my fate, I began my dreary post-mortem consideration of the criteria listed in the paper.

  Scholastic achievement.  Katina Ballantyne had always been a good student, no question about it.  However I was better.  For the past few years, my grades had been several points better than Katina's.  I am not saying I was smarter, but with my back to the wall, I had an incentive the size of Asia to succeed.  Due to my desperation, I was undoubtedly the most overachieving student in the entire school.

Economic need.  When it came to "need", I could not imagine any kid in that entire school who needed the money more than I did.  Heck, I was the Oliver Twist of St. John's, the near-orphan kid on scholarship.  My story was the Twentieth Century equivalent of a Charles Dickens melodrama.

Community service and leadership.  Hmm.  Now that gave me pause.  By those criteria, Katina definitely had me beat.  Katina was our class leader in a dozen different ways.  Meanwhile I was a complete zero.  Maybe this was the reason for my downfall.  But I didn't believe that.  I believed the reason for my downfall was Politics and Mrs. Ballantyne.  This was an inside deal, no doubt.

Everyone knows scholarships are based on financial need, not class leadership.  Point blank, I needed that scholarship more than Katina did and I deserved it too.  I had been robbed. 

The Rich just keep getting Richer.




I was convinced that powerful Mrs. Ballantyne had pulled strings to steer this money her daughter's way.  I was bitter. The rich man always wins.  The people with the gold make the rules and the people with the coal pay the toll.  I was just another victim in the age-old battle of class warfare.

I found it hard to imagine that Mrs. Ballantyne had not been involved in this unfair decision.  But how did she ever persuade Salls to give Katina the money?  This mockery had to be the result of her ability to wheel and deal.

I felt an intense resentment rising in me towards this woman.  Up till now, I had always liked Mrs. Ballantyne.  In fact, she had been the object of years of hero-worship.  Now I realized these had been the childhood fantasies of an ignorant, stupid little boy.  Just like I had found out who my father really was, now I had just found out who this Ballantyne woman really was.  She reminded me of Stepmother, the worst insult I could think of.

Over the next few days, I developed an enormous grudge towards Mrs. Ballantyne.  I didn't blame Katina... I never blamed Katina... but I could not stop thinking how her manipulative mother had stolen my scholarship.  Mrs. Ballantyne knew everyone at St. John's.  I watched her rub elbows with Mr. Salls many times in public.  Surely they had met in private many times as well, no doubt plotting how to steal my scholarship.

How was I ever going to pay for Georgetown now? 

I was lost.  There was no backup plan, no Plan B.  I had pegged everything on a Jones Scholarship that I believed had my name on it.  First my father and now the loss of this scholarship... I was left reeling.  All my stupid Foot in the Door plans had just gone up in smoke. 

The highway robbery of the Jones Scholarship rubbed me raw.  I had admired Mrs. Ballantyne for nine years only to get the shaft when it really counted.  Just my luck.  For the next few days I was barely hanging on by a thread.  There was no one I could talk to about my fears, not even Mr. Curran.  I was too ashamed to face him.  I was worried that Mr. Curran knew I had been suspected of cheating on the German exam.  What if he asked me the truth?  I didn't want to answer that question for all the tea in China.  No Mr. Curran.  I had to absorb this enormous loss on my own. 

There were no clear-cut options left.  Every door I knew about was closed now.  I had a flicker of hope that I might get a college scholarship, but every time this idea crossed my mind, the Curse of Deadbeat Dad's Salary shut that hope down.  A scholarship felt like a long shot at best.  I felt hopeless.

Only four students in the twenty-two year history of this school had failed to go directly to college following graduation.  At a time when every single one of my classmates was assured of going to college, it looked like I was about to become the fifth.\

My absolute worst fear seemed close to becoming a reality.  As it stood, every classmate but me would be going to college next year.

I connected my sudden grudge towards Mrs. Ballantyne with the same cesspool of bitterness and envy I had been feeling towards my college-bound classmates for the past two months.  There really was a curse over me.  There had to be.  Thanks to Mrs. Ballantyne, I wasn't going to college next year, was I?

At this point in time, I could not see any further moves.  Pure and simple, the loss of the Jones Scholarship was checkmate, game over.  The irony was overwhelming.  The kid who needed college the most would be the one denied college.  The kid who had worked the hardest to deserve college had just seen his dream go up in smoke.

The rich get richer... I could not get that thought out of my mind.  It played over and over again in my mind like a broken record.  One day it joined my other recurring thought... Everyone but me.   Now the two phrases became one.

Everyone but me; the Rich get Richer.  Everyone but me; the Rich get Richer.  Everyone but me; the Rich get Richer. 

Every time my mind repeated that phrase, the grudge festered more.  I had no way to escape this mental agony.  It followed me everywhere.  Just shoot me.




Try as I might, I could not seem to get this awful grudge towards Mrs. Ballantyne out of my mind.  Nor could I get over the irony.  Out of all the people to wrestle that scholarship away from me, why did it have to be Mrs. Ballantyne? 

To a messed up kid like me, that was like finding out my greatest sports hero had cheated to win.  Say it ain't so, Joe.

I had admired Mrs. Ballantyne so much.  Why did it have to be her?  Thinking how Stepmother had muscled me out of Father's heart, neither woman had any qualms about promoting their own children over the heads of the weak.

Just as my wicked stepmother had turned my father against me, Mrs. Ballantyne had seemingly pulled a similar trick on Mr. Salls. 

My imagination came up with this conversation...

"Mr. Salls," Mrs. Ballantyne said, "As you know, I have seven children at this school, more than any other parent.  My children are exemplary... academics, sports, leadership.  In addition, I provide leadership at the Mother's Guild and support your school in every way possible.  I attend every single activity.  Now I need a big favor from you. 

Would you consider my daughter Katina for the Jones Scholarship?  It would mean so much to me."

Perhaps.  But that line of thinking didn't feel right. 

Unlike Stepmother working her persuasion magic on susceptible Father of the Year, Mr. Salls was not someone to be manipulated.  No one pushed Mr. Salls around.  Visualizing that erect, steadfast man, I was certain of that.  Someone like Mr. Salls didn't get to be Headmaster by being easily swayed.  There had to be a better explanation than Mrs. Ballantyne sweet talk.

Mr. Salls was a person I admired.  Why would Mr. Salls take that scholarship away from me?  The decision had to be his.  The more clearly I saw things, the more I shifted my initial blame from Mrs. Ballantyne over to Mr. Salls. 

There had to be some reason why Salls chose Katina over me. 

I could understand Mrs. Ballantyne stealing my scholarship... hey, Katina was her kid.  Besides, Mrs. Ballantyne didn't owe me anything.  For that matter, I doubted seriously that Mrs. Ballantyne even knew I existed.  But Mr. Salls?  Gee whiz, this guy was a straight shooter.  He didn't play games.  And he liked me, I was sure of it.  Well, at least I thought he liked me.  Now I was having some serious doubts.  To begin with, I had no idea why my father had turned against me.  Now I had no idea why Mr. Salls had turned against me either.  Why was I always so clueless?  Was I really a creepy loser kid and just too afraid to see the truth?

Concentrating on Mr. Salls, it struck me that Salls had been the Assistant Headmaster for my entire career at St. John's.  Mr. Salls knew full well that I had received scholarships to St. John's for the past six years.  That meant Mr. Salls was the only person on earth besides me who knew how badly I needed a scholarship to college.  And yet he gave that money to Katina knowing full well how hard it would hit me.  That didn't make any sense.  Why didn't Mr. Salls say something to me? 

It was thing for Mr. Salls to overlook me, but wasn't he sensitive enough to know how I would react?  Why couldn't my former teacher pull me aside and whisper an explanation?  Did I do something wrong? 

'Did I do something wrong?'... that thought stuck in my mind.

... uh oh.   A terrible flash hit me.  I felt a wave of sudden sickness come over me. 

oh no, oh damn it... please tell me that is not the reason.

Cheating on the German test...

Of course.  That had to be it.  What else could explain this mystery?

Now it made sense.  I was overwhelmed with shame.  I finally had my answer.

I had brought Mr. Salls' abandonment on myself.   No one respects a cheater, especially not a man like Salls who values honor.

After I cheated on that German test, I had to believe Mr. Salls was so disgusted he decided the money should go to someone else who didn't cheat.  It wasn't worth his effort to prove I had cheated... it was my word against that other student.  No doubt I could whine and argue my way enough to cast an element of doubt.  So why bother?

However, in the privacy of his thoughts, Mr. Salls could have decided I was guilty.  After all, I had been seen closing a book suddenly in an empty room.  Very suspicious.

Mr. Salls knew about the shower room fight I had been in with Harold, I was sure of it. 

And what about all those Detention Halls and arguments with Mr. Murphy? 

Why should Richard Archer, a student with a full scholarship at SJS, a student who constantly rebelled against school rules and the Honor Code, be rewarded with yet another scholarship when there was someone like Katina Ballantyne who exemplified the St. John's Way? 

There was Katina Ballantyne... honor student, Prefect, choir leader, sports captain, drama lead, editor of the yearbook.  Katrina was the epitome, the ideal. 

Then there was Dick Archer, the creepy loser kid, the boy who broke the rules at every turn, cheated on a German test, stole gym clothes, contributed nothing and participated in nothing.

The picture of pretty, smiling Katina would no doubt look good as the Cover Girl for the annual SJS alumni newsletter.  I could read the cheerful caption in my mind's eye.

"Katina Ballantyne wins the 1968 Jesse H. Jones Scholarship Award.   We could not be more proud of her success here at the school.  We wish Katina good luck at Vanderbilt next year and expect this scholarship will come in very handy."

Or they could consider putting my scowling Scarface on the cover...

"Creepy Loser Kid Dick Archer wins the 1968 Jones Scholarship by being the poorest student in St. John's history.  In his Senior year, Dick failed Calculus, set a one-year mark for most Detentions, scared his Chemistry teacher to death, stole gym clothes, and got away with cheating on a German test.  Impressive!

Dick plans to attend Georgetown where he hopes to get the first date in his entire life.  We could not be more pleased to send Dick on his way to college."

Gosh, think about it... a picture of me with all my acne scars in prominent display.  Probably not the picture Mr. Salls wanted to see.  I was Carrie before the book had even been written. 

Katina Ballantyne, 1968

After cheating on the German test, at first I believed I had gotten off lucky.  Wrong.  Mr. Salls' snub on the Jones Scholarship was my well-deserved payback.  Cheating on that German test had cost me more than I could ever have imagined.  It would keep me out of Georgetown.  Justice had been served. 

At this school, students earned their privileges.  Nothing was handed to them.  Just because I was dead broke did not automatically qualify me for this scholarship.  Mr. Salls had decided I did not deserve the Jones Scholarship.  This was the only explanation that made any sense to me. 

My self-esteem was already in the pits thanks to my father's callous treatment, but the thought that Mr. Salls had rejected me over my insane loss of judgment hurt even worse. 

Life isn't fair, is it?  Four years of constant study, two years of work after school, the sacrifice of my basketball dream so I could save more money... now I had thrown it all away in one stupid action because I believed my hard life gave me the right to cut corners.  I was the perfect example of self-destructive. 

My mind rolled back to the 8th grade when the undercover cop had caught me stealing candy bars at Weingarten's.  In a blinding flash, his words came back to me...

"St. Johns?  Isn't that a private school?  I think I know what school you are talking about.  I've passed that place.  It's on Westheimer, right?  Hey, that's a rich kid's school.  You go to St. John's?  Are you serious?  You go to a private school like St. John's and here you are stealing candy bars?  Do you have any idea how many kids would die to go to a school like yours?"

My sense of shame was overwhelming. 

I could not believe I had thrown away the chance of a lifetime because I was too important to be bothered to learn the names of Goethe, Hesse, Nietszche and Mann. 

At this moment, I officially hit rock bottom.  The pain of this moment was equivalent to the onset of the acne explosion as the worst day of my life. 

It was Sisyphus time again... as the rock plummeted to the valley below, I was at the lowest point I could ever remember.

The Jones Scholarship.  Gone.  Georgetown University.  Gone.

I hated myself because I had gotten what I deserved and it was my own fault.  All that hard work only to screw it up. 

This was no nightmare.  This was High School Hell.

My classmates didn't know I existed.  My mother couldn't wait to rent my room out.  My father preferred his other children to me.  The grocery store manager wanted to fire me.   The basketball coach didn't want me.  Mr. Murphy told me every day I didn't deserve my St. John's scholarship.  And now Mr. Salls, a man I admired greatly, had just had made it clear he was disgusted with me. 

My biggest fear for the last four years had been how to pay to for college.  Now I realized I would not be going to college next year and it was my own fault.  It could not get any worse than this.  I was trapped in the very nightmare I had struggled so hard to avoid.

I was crushed.  Absolutely crushed.   No punishment could have possibly hurt worse than this.  It wasn't just losing Georgetown, it was the loss of Mr. Salls' belief in me that left me shattered. 

Mr. Salls probably knew me better than my own father.  Unlike my father, Mr. Salls was in a position to judge my character.  He had found me lacking integrity.  By his actions, my status as the Creepy Loser Kid had just been affirmed by the most important man in the school.

I was mired smack dab in second worst crisis of my life.  I was a loser by every possible definition I could think of.  I was finished.  I had nowhere left to turn. 

This Jones scholarship had been my last hope. There were no clear college options left.  I had no new ideas.  I was sinking into an Abyss of despair with no idea how to climb back out.

I was sick with worry.  I couldn't eat.  I couldn't concentrate.  I was so nervous I began to tremble.  Every moment was full of dread.  I had all kinds of terrible thoughts entering my mind that I couldn't control. 

I hated myself every waking moment.  Nine years of hard work at St. John's, two years of sacking groceries, three college acceptances, but no way to pay.  And that wasn't even the worst part.  There seemed to be a universal consensus that I sucked as a human being.

I was lost in a whirlpool of bitterness and self-pity.  In boxing terms, I was on the ropes.  One more blow and I was going down.

As I moved closer to the edge, I could feel the Abyss calling to me.

It was me against the World... and the World wasn't just winning, it was running up the score. 




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