In grade seven my class was bussed to a school in the East end where half the grade eights hadn't graduated the year before. Some girls spent entire days helping in the principal's office -- filing, telephoning, God knows what. Three girls, always the same, they'd write your name in a book if you were late and hold urine samples for the public health nurse. In grade 8 three years, knowing no math, every year given a spirit badge.
Angelo Ghattas spent all day every day in shops class. His best friend whose name no one remembers, had a famous arm -- burnt from the acetylene torch. After three years, some of the shops boys were gently pushed in the direction of a vocational high school but the teachers were afraid and if Angelo wanted to spend all day soldering, well, things could be worse.
For us they were. Small, well-mannered, every time Angelo would say “hello baby”
we'd stop and say “hello.”
“Nothing much, Angelo.”
We don't want to be mean or actively disliked.
“I'm talking to you!"
That get us every time. Not just one of us, but all of us. We turn singly and in groups and Angelo takes a wrist and places a palm to his crotch... squeezes.
The others girls leave. If you laugh, you get to go too.