I went to school with Zachary Sutton from kindergarten until our senior year of high school. Yet my memories of Zach hold him firmly as an eight year old boy, his straight, spare, back under blue and green striped polo shirts at triumphant odds with his scruffy, worn, sneakers, and tattered backpack. I remember him running to catch the bus, his tense, frail, body and flawless, if slightly frantic, face waiting for the merest breeze to blow him clean away from the world.
Zach was instantly and always a Greek hero in disguise; a pale, shining, purity of blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin, lithe form, and tall figure. His haloed appearance suggested to me that he must also be perfect in character, a truly divine creature. He even walked the way I imagined the gods did on Mount Olympus, his unobtrusive, introverted, stroll completely unaffected by his immediate surroundings.
The miniature deity was one of the few boys in our grade. While most of the boys compensated for their small number by being particularly loud and incorrigible, Zach tended to keep to himself, and rarely connected with any of the other children. Along with being a minority, Zach’s quiet, subdued, manner, and fragile, refined, frame caused the feminine populace to eye him with the predatory suspicion born of fearing the unfamiliar. His oblivion served only to heighten the curiosity and fixation fomenting amongst the girls.
Zach was fam0us in our school because, for several years, he wore his hair with a little blonde tail in the form of a perfect sausage curl — the biggest, fattest, sausage curl with all the coil and bounce of a hungry caracal. The girls would indulge themselves by sneaking up behind him and tugging on his curl, ‘boinging’ it. It aggravated him to no end, and he would blush furious flames across his cheeks every time.
As much as I wanted to, I could never muster up enough courage to treat myself to a juicy boing. I merely watched all the other girls giggle pinkishly while Zach squinched up his eyes and pushed them away. Listening resentfully to the delighted coos of my classmates, I admitted a peevish sort of satisfaction in watching them provoke this aloof little figure into a spontaneous reaction.
One afternoon, all the girls plotted to corner him and binge themselves on boinging. Congratulating myself on my brilliant timing, I plunged into the cluster to sneak my boing, ignoring the deeply resonating twang of guilt I felt at partaking in such a blatant act of silliness. My hand found the silken lock through a sea of shirt sleeves and elbows, feeling that glorious texture in spite of my arm going numb. I boinged my only boing with the sense of complete abandon that only comes after a due amount of obsessive yearning.
As I backed out of the horde, I caught a glimpse of Zach’s face. I saw that the red in his cheeks and the strain around the edges of his eyes were more than embarrassed annoyance. He was in a state of sheer panic. And, seconds later, the girls had forced him under his desk and into crimson tears. I couldn’t look at my fingers for shame.
The next day, school started typically enough, and I don’t think the preceding day’s events were much on anyone’s mind. But when Zach entered the room, the class grew quiet as each of us gazed with reluctant eyes upon his neck.
His tail was gone.