I think every junior high school has someone like him. They probably always had, and likely always will.

Shortly after Christmas 1987, halfway through the eighth grade, I transferred schools. I'd elected to leave my father and move into my mother's house in a small town in Manitoba's Interlake region. Transferring wasn't particularly easy, as I was socially inept and overweight. Even then, I managed to make friends with relative (and surprising) ease.

One of the first bits of advice presented to me was to stay away from Beaner. "He stank," I was told. He was poor. He was stupid. He was annoying. I nodded my head passively to these warnings, as they failed to mention one key shred of information: exactly who this "Beaner" was.

By my third week at the new school, I had figured it out. Beaner was a boy in my class named Bryan. Unfortunately, as most vicious eighth grade rumors did, the stories I'd heard about him seemed mostly true. He did smell, probably because he wore the same heavy clothes to school repeatedly. He was poor, coming from a large hog farming family that wasn't doing so well. He wasn't a bright student, barely scraping by in class. And damn, was he annoying. In retrospect, it was overcompensation; he knew that he was an outcast, and he tried to make up for it by being boastful and arrogant outside of class and by making loud, unfunny comments in class. And to compensate for his odor, he'd douse himself with his father's Old Spice, further complicating the problem rather than solving it.

By February, I too was shunning him.

So many "losers" are categorized as such without recognition of their qualities. So, in remembering Bryan, it's important to remember that he was a good-looking kid. He was tall, with bold, handsome features and dirty blond hair. Being a farm boy, we has strong and fit from his chores. Bryan was one of the best long distance runners in my school.

Not that anyone cared.

Somewhere near the end of the school year, a rumour started floating around that Bryan's father had been caught in a very compromising situation with a calf. Whether or not it was true, it certainly had an effect on the boy. He became more and more withdrawn as the years progressed. I left town to return to Winnipeg in the summer of 1990, but I heard that he dropped out sometime in the ninth or tenth grade. Shortly thereafter, Bryan took a shotgun to his head (probably to stop the echoing chants of "Beaner! Beaner! Beaner!" left from his time in the eighth grade).


All these years later, it strikes me that *I* was my school's "Beaner" before I moved away to that small town. I had been the social outcast who wore the same smelly clothes to school day-in and day-out. I was the kid who felt that he had to act out for attention. But after I transferred into that school, I fitted in. It's amazing what a regular shower can do for your popularity when there's someone on a lower rung of the junior high caste system around.

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