Town Without Pity


When you’re young and so in love as we

And bewildered by the world we see

Why do people hurt us so
Only those in love would know
What a town without pity can do

If we stop to gaze upon a star
People talk about how bad we are
Ours is not an easy age
We’re like tigers in a cage
What a town without pity can do

The young have problems, many problems
We need an understanding heart
Why don’t they help us, try and help us
Before this clay and granite planet falls apart
Take these eager lips and hold me fast
I’m afraid this kind of joy can’t last

How can we keep love alive
How can anything survive
When these little minds tear you in two
What a town without pity can do

How can we keep love alive
How can anything survive
When these little minds tear you in two
What a town without pity can do

No, it isn’t very pretty what a town without pity can do


When we were in fifth grade, Clark got sent down to the principal’s office for trying to kiss a boy.  It didn’t surprise me.  In kindergarten, I had shared a double desk with Clark, and once when I dropped my pencil, he followed me under the table and tried to kiss me.  I pushed him away and, at the end of the day, asked the teacher if I could change desks.  When she asked for a reason, I told her I was allergic to Clark’s cashmere sweaters.

I wasn’t mad at Clark for trying to kiss me.  I just wasn’t interested in kissing.  That was something girls did with each other.  Shoot, we didn’t even want to kiss girls, let along each other. We liked playing baseball and going to the park and acting out cowboy movies.  But I guess there were some boys who did like to kiss each other.  Clark was proof of that.

I don’t know how many kids he had tried to kiss since kindergarten, but I’m pretty sure nobody told the teacher on him until last year, and the squealer was this gross kid that I am surprised Clark wanted to kiss. Vernon was known at a farter, not a kisser, because that’s what liked to do out on his front lawn every day after school.  He would pull his pants down and lay on his back. When a car drove by, he lifted his legs in the air and cut a fart at it. I don’t know how he got away with it for so long, but lots of kids at school swore they saw him on the lawn with his pants down whenever they walked past his house.  I don’t know.  I never did see him do it.

But I don’t care about Vernon. I was just wondering why Clark had tried to kiss him.  Maybe he loved kissing so much that he would try to do it with anyone.   For all I know, he might have been kissing girls all those years.  It would make sense, because girls are the ones who really like kissing.  Some of them might have thought it was extra fun to get a boy trapped in their playhouse to join in their kissing games.

In the fifth grade, there already were a couple of boys who kissed girls, but I wasn’t one of them. Having a big sister who is already in Junior High, I know that a boy can get in a lot more trouble kissing girls than Clark got into for trying to kiss a boy.  That’s because of what it can lead to.  My sister had a friend who used to kiss this guy who came over to her house every night after dinner to help with the dishes.  Then they went up to her room and laid on the bed to kiss and listen to records. I have heard some of the big kids say that if you take the label off a bottle of your dad’s Olympia Beer, and get a girl to sign it, she has to let you do whatever the rule of that label is.  If it has one dot, you get to kiss her, two dots you get to feel her on top of her clothes, three dots you get to feel her under her clothes, and four dots she has to get naked and you can do whatever you want with her.  Anyway, this guy got my sister’s friend to sign a four-dotter, and whatever they did got him sent to the reform school, and she got sent to live with her grandmother somewhere.  The only punishment Clark got for trying to kiss Vernon was a trip to the principal’s office.

Well, that’s not quite true.  Once the word got around that he had tried to kiss Vernon, kids started to pick on him and call him names. Once some girls made a circle around him and held hands while they danced and sang a mean song that started off by saying that Clarky is a sissy. And once when he got a hall pass to go to the bathroom during class, the hall monitor followed him into the bathroom and shot spitballs at him while he was sitting on the toilet. People were so mean to him that I thought he needed someone on his side, but when I bet him that I could get to the bottom of the hill before him, he started crying and ran the other way. 

After a while, the kids got tired of torturing Clark.  Since I wasn’t seeing him sulking around the halls with tears and snot all over his face, I forgot about him.  He was just another schoolmate that I didn’t know, somebody who kept to himself.  Nobody asked him to be on their team or anything and he never tried to join in any games.    He just did his work in class and went home, leaving the last class ahead of anyone else and running until he got out outside the school gates. I didn’t think about it at the time, but it’s possible that some kids chased him after school, and maybe beat him up if they caught him. 

I hadn’t given Clark a thought in several months when the announcement came over the school PA yesterday that one of our classmates had died.  They didn’t say anything other than that, didn’t even give the name, but by the end of the day it was going around that it was Clark who had died and that his parents had found him in his bedroom where he had hung himself. When I got home I told my parents, who made some phone calls and later told me that it was true.  I couldn’t believe it.  Getting hung was something that happened to horse thieves in cowboy movies, not to kids going to school in America in 1959.  I didn’t even know what I thought about it, but I couldn’t eat my dinner and then couldn’t get to sleep all last night.  And this morning, I didn’t feel like going to school, but I had to go anyway.

Now that I am here, all I want to do is crawl under my desk and look for Clark. I know he’s under there someplace, and when I find him, I am going to give him a kiss. 


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