Betrayed by the Angel

What happens when violence knocks and politeness answers?

MRS. W. ARRANGED US alphabetically, so I spent my entire third-grade year sitting next to a sadist named Hank C. Every day, several times a day, whenever the teacher wasn't looking, Hank would jab his pencil into my arm. He was shorter than me, and I'd look down on his straight brown hair and he'd glance up at me with a crooked smile and then he'd do it: jab jab jab.

He'd get up from his seat often to sharpen the point; I'd sit in my seat in dread, listening to the churn of the pencil sharpener in the back of the room, knowing the pencil tip would be dulled not by paper but by my skin. I'd go home with little gray circles, some with dots of red in the center, Hank's own bull's-eye, all up and down my left arm. I remember it was my left arm because I can see myself sitting next to him, wearing one of the outfits, not just a dress, but an outfit -- matching socks, hair ribbon, even underwear -- that my mother would put me in each morning. I look at him and hope maybe not this time, please no more, and he glances at me (or doesn't -- he got so good at it that after a while he could find my arm without looking) and: jab jab jab. Each time I hope he won't and each time he does.

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