It was the day of the fall dance in 8th grade. My buddies and I were sitting in the speech room at Gator Jr. High. We would sit on the heater and brag about our imaginary conquests of women that would never give us the time of day. The focus for my hormone soaked brain was Cassie Easton. She was the one I would stare at all the time in Mr. Craven’s class. (See Profiles in Teaching #2.) Previously, I had told a friend of hers that I liked her. Of course I told her this in confidence because you are not supposed to tell someone you like them in Jr. High; protocol must be followed. Suddenly, Cassie bursts into the room, “Guess what? I found out….Red Pen, likes me!” Everyone giggled as Cassie realized that I heard every word she said. I had all the information I needed to make my next move.

In this instance, two problems needed to be solved. One how to carefully maneuver the very detailed and complex protocols of middle school romance. It’s not like the adult world where you walk up to the woman and ask her for coffee. Direct parlay from a suitor, at this stage, can have devastatingly negative results. A suitor must instill the aide of a second. Usually, this person is a best friend, or a good enough friend of the maiden. This person goes to the maiden’s second, also a “bestie,” who relates the intentions of the suitor back to the maiden. With indirect information the maiden makes her choice and relays that information to her second who relays it to the suitors second, who then relays it to the suitor. Whew! I wish I were joking. This area in particular must be strongly adhered too. Problematic areas for the suitor range from levels of cuteness to similar social circles. Also vital,  is whether the maiden’s second hates you because you threw a paper airplane in her hair during science class. I proudly ranked myself high on the cuteness scale and I had already apologized for the airplane; you should have seen the trajectory on that thing! It stuck right in her aqua-netted wave of bangs, like a 2×4 splitting a tree after a tornado. Still she hated me.

Secondly,I had no second! But the gauntlet had been thrown since Cassie proclaimed my fondness to all in proximity. Something had to be done and it had to be done that night. On this night, I would sacrifice my dignity and the ridiculously sanctified standard operating procedures of middle school romance, throw all caution to the wind, steer my strong chin into the storms of passion, and ask her to dance.

The human-geography of a middle school dance is unique. On one side of the gym are the girls. They stand in circles and talk. Every thirty seconds a sortie of two to three would fly off in search of candy, chips, the restroom, or acting as a girl’s second.  There Cassie stood, deeply entrenched by a wall of “Hammer-panted,” hair-sprayed bangs. Security on her was tighter than the walls of Jericho. That is why my butt was sitting atop the bleachers on the other side scared out of my Bugle Boys! With me, are the other “bleacher-boys,” donning the mask of indifference to hide their fears. None of us had a chance with Cassie Easton. She had status, we had pimples.  Underneath the bleachers were all the couples making out like sex crazed, middle school jack-rabbits. Tongues lashing around inside their mouths as if they were trying to dislodge left over fish sticks from their wisdom teeth.

Then it happened. The entrenchment around Cassie had broken away leaving her isolated. As I rose to my feet all the bleacher creatures stared at me in white-eyed, middle school wonder. I began my attack run, each step matching the opening to a song that will forever remind me of this moment. Mr. Big’s, “I’m The One Who Wants To Be With You,” began pumping through the crappy D.J.’s speakers.

I then began to walk across that gym floor towards Cassie. Every step weighing twice that of the next.  Mid way across the gym, I turned around to look at my buddies. The safety and security of the bleachers felt a million miles away at that moment, but the “bleacher boys,” cheered on their champion. I continued my march until at last. I stood before my goddess! The lights danced, as if we were the only two people left on earth.

“Cassandra Easton,” I said. My voice crackling with one part nerves, two parts puberty.

” Hello Red.” She said.

” I really, really like you. Will you dance with me?” I asked.

The loud, ghost like wail, heard over the St. Louis Metropolitan area that night came as the “bleacher creatures” cried out in mortal agony as their champion’s heart was ripped from his chest in rejection! Her answer, “No.”

Douglas A-20J-10-DO (S/N 43-10129) of the 409th or 416th Bomb Group after being hit by flak over Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

I now know what was going through The Red Baron’s mind when he got shot down. My shoulders slouched, head dropped to my chest as Mr. Big kept “waiting on a line of greens and blues,” the only line I wanted was out! I turned around, walked back across the floor at a quick step, double timed out the building, sprinted my way home, locked the bedroom door behind me, crawled into bed, and never wanted to go back to school again. I did, and the kids razzed me. Cassie’s friends would continually give me, the “stink-eye,” when I walked by. But Cassie? Cassie would just smile.

The real Cassie has read this story. Her response, “Cute story.”

As Always, thank you for reading Tales From The Red Pen, comment and share with others! Until next week….I bid Adieu!