I got my student handbook out of my notebook and opened it. I turned to the table of contents.
The Principal rolled his eyes, “Okay, you’re not going to find anything in there on sexual misconduct…”
“So, tell me, Sir, when did you have assembly and explain to all the students exactly what the guidelines or boundaries were concerning sexual misconduct?”
“Your son is accused of…”
“He is accused of doing something that he did not know was wrong. The issue is, when did you inform all the students as to the proper sexual conduct expected in this Middle School?”
“We don’t normally do that.”
“With no guidance at all, you expect all the students in this school to magically understand how they are to behave. Is that how this works?”
“We have an expectation that the school, home, and the church has given the students a solid ethical background by the time they get here so that we don’t have to explain these things.”
“The burden is on you. Can you prove that my son intended to commit a crime today against this other boy?”
“An instance of sexual misconduct happened whether your son intended it or not. We have an injured party!” The Vice Principal said.
“Injured? Look at this!” she said. She pulled my hair back and turned my head. She showed them my face. “Where did he get this mark on his face? If you are looking for an injured party, here is your injured party! I should file suit!”
Seeing the hand print on my face surprised the Vice Principal.
Mother jumped. “Said? He’s twelve! What I say is what’s important! Mens Rea!”
“What’s was that again?” the principal asked.
“I may look like an old washer woman, but I’m telling you that I am no man’s fool! Mens Rea!
The Principal looked over at the Vice Principal and he shrugged. The secretary spoke up.
“If I may, sir, it’s Latin. It means “guilty mind.” The law uses it to describe criminal intent.”
My mother spoke calmly, “She is right. You think about that. You two men sit there with your nice suits in your positions of authority thinking you have the law on your side, but you are wrong! I forbid you to punish my son over this, and if you try to take this to criminal authorities, I will strap the law to my feet and walk all over this school district.”
Mother was brave that day. She was a lioness. She was the most courageous woman in the world and right then I loved her more than a person could love anybody.
Mother came down with cancer and right after Christmas and she died. It was only six weeks from the time she came home from the doctor, until she died on the kitchen floor with blood coming out of her mouth. Those six weeks was hard. When she got down, the grocery stores wouldn’t let me spend her food stamps. I went hungry.
Nobody came to the burial except a preacher, the grave digger, and me. That gave me nightmares. The state buried her in the poor people’s grave yard in a pine box. I can still remember the smell of it. Happy new year.
Right after she died, I was crazy with grief. I was wild. I threw things, broke things. I went through our little shanty house like a little mad boy, screaming, crying, clawing at my eyes with