Ah, the memories. Back in high school, the people I hung out with were pretty close to the bottom of the social ladder. That sounds like a bad thing, but for a long time, those years were the highlight of my life. I had all kinds of friends and incredible teachers. My closest friends and I were hardcore nerds who spent our time doing karate, playing video games, exploring USENET, and running politically incorrect yet very hilarious characters in roleplaying games like Cyberpunk, Call of Cthulhu, and Dungeons and Dragons. Things were pretty good one step from the bottom.

Stinky, on the other hand, was on the bottom.

Stinky had earned his name by Not Smelling Good (in a similar fashion, Skittle had earned his by wearing a brightly colored shirt to school one day in grade five or so, Woody had earned his by getting an erection in sweatpants while reading poetry in front of the class, and Shovelface by being so ugly you wanted to smack him with a shovel just for breathing your air). He was a lousy student (and also not particularly smart), overweight, and socially inept. As we were the only people in the school willing to even talk to him, he usually hung out with us. We treated him like dirt.

It was our ritual to rendezvous at the library before classes started every morning. I would usually get there around 9:15. By then, everyone else (including Stinky) was already there, with the exception of Shovelface. From where we stood, we could see all the way out of the library, down the hall to the stairs. Around 9:25, all eyes would turn that way to watch Shovelface literally running down the hall towards the library. He would burst in through the doors, shout out some GWAR lyrics related to his toxic anal reek, and give Stinky his morning kicks. He would usually kick Stinky about five times. Often Stinky would just take it, but there was one time that he tried to stab him with a dull pen knife. Shovelface didn't notice until we told him, whereas he gave him a couple more kicks for good measure. I did nothing to stop this.

During our final year, some of us were enrolled in a course that gave us access to a video camera. One lunch hour, some of the others borrowed the camera and recorded themselves roughing him up in various classrooms. On a few occasions, teachers walked in on this. Whenever teachers did, my friends pretended it was just an act. Stinky played along, of course. Later on that day I found him sobbing on the stairs, and probably skipping class to do it. I didn't really know what to say to him. I didn't like him either, but I disapproved of his mistreatment and found this episode particularly offensive. I had also done absolutely nothing to stop it. In the end, I left him there without saying anything to him.

There were other torments, including constant namecalling and a text mode video game called "Hunt for Stinky" in which the player wandered around through a simulation of our school trying to kill Stinky with various deadly weapons. Throughout it all, I stood on the sidelines. I did not participate, and I didn't lift a finger in his defence.

I'm lousy with dates, but all this happened around 10 years ago. These days, I know where most of the old crowd is. Most of them ended up being pretty decent people (though Shovelface is very slimy at the bars). One will be my best man next year. Another manages a Radio Shack. Another is studying to be a ninja. I don't know what the hell Shovelface is doing, but he's in the city, and I can find him if I want to. Sometimes I wonder where Stinky is now. I wonder what my life would be like had Stinky cracked under the pressure. Maybe he would have killed himself. Perhaps he would have tried to take us with him, a la Columbine (though I doubt that). Despite his pathos, I admire him for making it through. Finally and most importantly of all, I make sure not to fool myself into thinking I'm blameless for the way he was treated.

There is a moment in Natural Born Killers that really sticks out in my mind. It is when Mallory Knox says to her mother just before putting her to the torch:"You never did nothing."

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