Chalk: (n) a soft white limestone used for blackboards

His first name was Page and his second was Unus. His parents apparently thought this was funny, because once Unus is translated from the
Latin, his name became “Page One.”

I liked Page. He was odd.

Most kids in school knew he was odd, which disqualified him from consideration. He was highly intelligent, which is the booby prize often given to odd people. Page had quirks.

Page loved to eat cold kidney beans out of a can.

He loved to have crab apple fights in his backyard.

But he hated the sound of squeaky chalk on a blackboard. It made him crazy–not fake, “pretending to be upset” crazy. No, his blood pressure went up, his face turned red, and he gripped the sides of his wooden schoolroom desk as if he were going to tear it apart.

We had one teacher who always had squeaky chalk. I don’t know if it was the cheap stuff or the expensive–but every time he wrote on the blackboard, there was an accompanying atonal melody of squeaking which most of the class ignored.

Except for Page and me–and only me because I was concerned about Page.

One day in the midst of a particularly elongated session of trying to solve a problem on the board with the squeaking chalk, Page got up from his seat, quietly walked to the front of the room, took the chalk from the teacher’s hand and threw it against the wall, breaking it into several pieces. He turned to the class and said, “Doesn’t that sound drive you crazy?”

He was met with a roomful of blank faces.

The teacher took him to the principal’s office, where he received a lecture on self-control and was given in-school suspension for five days. During his stretch for the crime, I saw him one day on his way to the cafeteria. He was smiling.

I was confused. Why would Page be so happy about his punishment? Then I realized.

No squeaky chalk.


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Bruise: (n) an injury appearing as an area of discolored skin on the body

He had an unusual name: Page.

He was a boy. So he took a lot of crap for it.

I think his parents thought they were clever–because his whole name was Page Unus McCloy.Dictionary B

In other words, “Page One McCloy.”

I liked him.

He was a simple little fella. He tried really hard to do everything that everybody else did, but he was sickly–that’s what the teacher said–had a difficult time keeping up.

He also had a problem when playing, because the slightest little bump could cause a bruise. So you can imagine, there were times that Page came from home black and blue. The cops would be called and then everyone would realize it was just due to his…you know. Sickly.

So physical games were pretty much impossible because he always ended up looking like he had been beat up in a bar fight.

One day we found some crab apples in his backyard, rotting on the ground. We decided to throw them at each other. Apparently one of them wasn’t quite rotted enough, and it hit him square in the middle of his forehead, knocked him down and left a huge bruise.

His mother was really mad at me, so I wasn’t allowed to play with Page for a couple of weeks.

But when I returned the friendship was as sweet as ever, and we continued to carefully carry on as young boys do–dodging injury.

Christmas vacation arrived, and I told Page that I would call him over the holidays and that I was looking forward to seeing him “next year.”

When January 7th arrived and we returned to school, I couldn’t find Page. A teacher took me to the side and explained that he had passed away over the holidays, from complications due to something called leukemia.

My first thought was that I must have killed him with the crab apple. That idea haunted me for months.

Matter of fact, it wasn’t until we were in biology class two years later that I understood the type of disease that caused Page to bruise.

Whenever I think of bruises, I think of Page.

Then I think about how important it is, if you love someone, to be tender to their condition … and try not to leave any kind of bruise.


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