R L Kilgore

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I Am Sorry

A small, dusty Texas town where no trees grow
Without being watered was OK for a sixth grade boy
Who did not know any better. There was no link
To the outside world with television so I
Didn’t know much anyway.

Barracks type buildings from the closed, World War II
Army base had been moved and converted
Into class rooms on the grounds of the junior
High school – and that was OK too.

We six graders started band in one of those barracks
And I played the clarinet. I played clarinet
Because my mother had found a used one cheap.
The problem was mine was shiny metal and the other
Clarinet players had black ones.

A boy named Gene sat next to me
In the clarinet section. He sat one seat closer
To the front row because he played a little better
Than I did. Gene was not corpulent
But he was somewhat overweight, I would
Call him soft. He was not athletic
And walked with a shuffling, pigeon-toed gait. His hair
Was a lighter shade than blond but I don’t believe
It was white. However, his most remarkable
Feature was a silver metal cap on one of his front
Teeth. I now know caps like that are the most
Inexpensive way of fixing a broken tooth.
He smiled frequently and pushed his glasses up
With the backside of his index finger. He
Was not one of the in-crowd and I was.

Gene and I had a conflict, the cause
Of which I don’t recall – nor what happened
Afterward. Regardless, I was trying to prove
To him I was somehow better off
Than he was.

In our town movies changed three times a week,
One on Saturday, one on Sunday and one
(only your mother would go to) in between.
I told Gene I went to all three movies
Every week. (This was a lie – I only
Went on weekends). He told me he did too.
Desperate for something to one-up him with I
Said at least I did not live on the north
Side of the tracks. He probably had never thought
About where he lived. He just stood looking with a wide-eyed
Stare like someone who had been stabbed in the heart with a knife
And was still alive to feel It. I had won.

The memory of his face burns in my mind
And haunts my heart so I cannot forget.
Gene, I am sorry.


One Response

  1. Todd Says:

    I think Gene would be touched.