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Video Preview of Back to School Mom

Snap Synopsis of book: Sandy Girard Franklestone, a  fitness instructor, travels back in time to save her younger self from school bullies.


These two excerpts feature Mrs. Whitehall, Sandy’s English teacher.  She’s a  Bible-totin’, church-goin’  religious hypocrite who shows her shallowness and utter disregard for Sandy’s human dignity.


Excerpt One

While Sandy Franklestone, alias Cindy Franks, is back in 1985 working behind the scenes to protect 16-year-old Sandy’s safety and dignity.  The younger Sandy overhears things which hit a raw nerve.


     Mrs. Whitehall walked in, looking relaxed and happy.

     “Hello, class, I just had the most wonderful time at my Spiritual Growth Seminar in Northridge, Los Angeles.  So sorry I didn’t make it back Monday.  But I feel like I’m on Cloud Nine.  Brother Zebedee Barzillai, the keynote speaker, presented a six-part teaching series on the topic of ‘Free Forgiveness for All’. No matter what anybody does to you, forgive that individual.  Even if the offender never expresses regret for what he’s done, it’s a sin against God to feel any resentment toward that person.”

     Sandy raised her hand.

     “Yes, Sandy?”

     “What if the trouble goes on for years and years and nobody ever says ‘sorry’? Do you still have to forgive ‘em?”

     “Why yes, Sandy, of course.”

     “What if somebody teases a girl for being fat and hurts her feelings so much she jumps off a bridge?  Would God forgive that girl or send her to hell?”

     Mrs. Whitehall pursed her lips.  “Why, Sandy, no one in their right mind would ever do such a wicked thing, even out of desperation.”

     “But would God send that person to hell, Mrs. Whitehall?”

     Sandy, please refrain from using such expletives in this class.”

     “But that word’s in the Bible, Mrs. Whitehall.”

     Kids laughed.  One of them hollered, “Ain’t no room in heaven for giraffes either.  The ceiling ain’t high enough.”

     “Roderick, mind your wicked tongue!” Mrs. Whitehall said sharply. 

     “See what I mean, Mrs. Whitehall?” Sandy lamented.  “I know Roderick ain’t sorry for…”

     Sandy, haven’t I taught you proper grammar by now?” Mrs. Whitehall moaned.  “You meant to say, ‘Roderick isn’t sorry’. Even if Roderick calls you names for the next million years and never apologizes, you still have to forgive him.”

     “One more question, Mrs. Whitehall,” Sandy said.  “If God expects us to forgive without getting any apology, then why would He send people downstairs for not saying ‘sorry’ for making Him mad?”

     “Ours is not to question,” the teacher said smugly.  “Anger is like fire in the hands of a two-year-old.  Only God has the right to be angry. We just take it on faith that we’re held to a higher standard of conduct.”

     Sandy bit her tongue but shook her head at the contradiction as the kids had another good laugh.

     When class disbanded, Denny Lofton ambushed her with his news camera.  “Aha!  Gotcha, giraffe!  Man, did I ever get a good scoop, the way you preached religion at old lady Whitehall!”

     “Buzz off, Lofton,” Sandy said with a sidelong sneer.

     “Or what, giraffe?  Ya gonna call your Martian buddies to make me?”

     “No, but I will!” A man in a black bandana snuck up on him.  “Gimme that camera or I’ll wrap it around your neck!”

     Denny raced down the hall laughing, though he was plenty scared.

     Mrs. Whitehall exited the room.  A couple students gawked at the stranger in the black leather jacket.

     Sandy!” Mrs. Whitehall said sharply.  “Are you affiliated with some gang?”

     Only when I need protection from too many people I don’t have to forgive,” Sandy said, before leaving with the guy.

     “The giraffe and the space alien make a great couple,” one boy said.

     Montgomery!” she scolded the boy widely known as ‘Monty’.

     Down the hall, Sandy whispered to Chico, “Two girls I know are in there talking to Mrs. Whitehall.  I need to know what they’re saying.”

     “Why don’t you just walk away, Sandy? Who cares what they think?”

     “Just keep a lookout for a few seconds, Chico. I’ll just be a minute.  Then I’ll tell you what I heard.”

      The two loudmouth boys were gone.  Stealthily, Sandy crept down the hall and stood to one side of the door window so she could hear without being seen.

     “Mrs. Whitehall,” Denise queried, “isn’t it awful how some kids treat each other?  What would Jesus do?”

     The teacher said smugly, “We aren’t called to preach a social gospel, Denise, if that’s what you’re implying.  This world will be full of sinners who abuse each other till the end of time.  Unless the Good News costs you something, you can’t be a Christian.  If Sandy ever comes to the Lord, she’ll have to give up her anger and bear suffering patiently like the rest of us.”

     “Why couldn’t you give her a straight answer to her question?” Jolene wanted to know.  “It is hard to understand why God would send people to…that place, but still expect humans to be more forgiving than He is.”

     “The way to life is narrow,” Mrs. Whitehall said.  “Unless you’re willing to have your love and patience tested to its outermost limits, you can’t get into heaven.”

     “Mrs. Whitehall,” Denise whispered, “is it a sin, the way some of us churchgoers refuse to sit near Sandy in assembly or in the cafeteria?”

     The good religious lady shook her head.  “There must be something fundamentally wrong with Sandy if everyone ostracizes her like that.  Sandy’s a sinner if she doesn’t share our beliefs.  So technically speaking, you’re in the right for refusing to keep company with her.  My Bible says to keep yourself separate from sinners and not to eat with reprobates.”

     “But some of the girls we sit with don’t go to church,” Jolene said.

     “Most of ‘em even say cuss words,” Denise added.

     Sandy must be guilty of some terrible sin she’s hiding from everyone,” Mrs. Whitehall speculated.  “That’s why God is punishing her so severely.  If you’ll read your Bibles you’ll find numerous examples of God raising up adversaries to torment sinful people.  Some sinners receive all their punishment in the afterlife, if that’s the good Lord’s will.  But a very few begin to reap their richly deserved punishment in the here and now.  Sandy just happens to be one of those unfortunate souls.”

     “So, it wouldn’t make  much difference if we sat with her when everybody else kept away from her,” Jolene shrugged, her expression vacant. “And, like, if we did they’d hassle us too. So why make enemies when we don’t need to?”

     “Right, Jolene,” Denise said. “Mustn’t give Satan an open door to harass us by being different.   Besides, I promised God that next year I’d work up the courage to act more like Jesus.  God knows the devil runs this school and we’re outnumbered anyway.”

     “Amen to that,” Mrs. Whitehall said.  Her eyes darted nervously. “You must be wise as serpents when you’re on the devil’s territory.  The darkness here is so intense one tiny pinpoint of light won’t make a hill of beans’ worth of difference.  You could remember to leave a gospel tract on Sandy’s lunch table before she sits down. That’s an easy way to lead her to Christ.  Just don’t let any teacher catch you doing it. Mr. Trent is especially hostile to our faith.

     “To speak of the devil,” the teacher whispered. “There he goes down the hall. If he catches me violating the separation between church and state, I’ll be standing in the unemployment line before you know it.”

     “Why can’t we just keep our religion in church where it belongs?” Denise moaned.  “There’s a place for everything. Mom cooks in the kitchen, not the bedroom. The car’s in the garage, not the house.  Religion belongs in church.  It doesn’t belong on the bus or in the school cafeteria.”

     “Except for saying grace over lunch,” Jolene said.  “Even then I keep my eyes open, my mouth shut, and make it snappy, and no other kid even knows I prayed. I can do it in two seconds.”

     Denise laughed.  “I doubt that food’s even worth one second, it’ so yucky.”

     “Denise,” Mrs. Whitehall gently reproved, “unthankfulness is a sin. But I see your point. No need to make yourself a public spectacle when you pray. Jesus warned against praying to draw attention to yourself.

     “And as for flaunting your faith in front of others, the Bible does teach you to be discreet in all your ways,” Mrs. Whitehall added.  “Ecclesiastes 7:16 says it’s self-destructive to act too sanctimonious. You’ll only end up lonely. Romans 14:22 warns us to keep our faith strictly between us and God.”

     Exasperated, Jolene said, “Don’t we go see God once a week in His house?  Isn’t it enough some of us go to the sweaty jungles of Africa to preach religion? What more could God want out of us?”

     “Well, I do know God doesn’t expect us to cast our pearls before the swine,” Mrs. Whitehall said.”

     “And Hogwood High is full of ‘em!” Denise tittered.

    Standing outside where they couldn’t see, Sandy picked up most of their dialogue.  She happened to have an REM cassette in her little Walkman.  She fast-forwarded it to “Losing My Religion” and turned it up full blast so her adversaries could hear it while they picked her apart in Mrs. White’s room. Sandy’s face flushed with contempt for their hypocrisy.

     After playing part of it Sandy ran down the hall, cackling like a triumphant crow.

     Mrs. Whitehall was mortified.  “Whatever was that?” she gasped.  “Have you ever heard such a wicked laugh? Oh, girls, she must have overheard.”

     “Seems like Sandy and her gang are everywhere these days,” Denise said.     

    “Just like satan,” Jolene repined.  “Who else would poke fun at religion?”

     Mrs. Whitehall’s eyes darted to and fro.  “Doesn’t the Bible warn us that satan is ever-present, prowling like a hungry lion to devour decent people?”

     Sandy found Chico.  She told him everything.

       “I’m not surprised,” he shrugged.  “Religion is a good copout for cowards, and people like that can make the Bible say anything they want it to say.”

     “Casting pearls before swine,” Sandy murmured.  “Was she calling me a pig, Chico?”

     He grinned.  “It takes one to know one.  Isn’t this place called Hog Pen High?”



Excerpt Two


Back in the present, Sandy and her organization, the Right to Respect Radicals, have just embarked on a nationwide motorcycle cavalcade to gather popular support for the Ban the Bully Bill.  It  would make school and workplace bullying a federal hate crime subject to prosecution.


Sandy has just stopped somewhere on her campaign trail to make a speech.  Elderly Mrs. Whitehall has tracked her down.


As Sandy sat in her dressing room heat-waving her big mane of hair, she heard a rap on the door.  “C’mon in,” she said.

     Sandy saw the woman’s reflection in her mirror before she turned around.  A gray-haired woman in her late sixties, dressed in a powder blue suit, hovered over her, with a hesitant smile.

     “I don’t suppose you remember me, Mrs. Franklestone, but I recognized you.”

     “Not too hard to do,” Sandy said.  “Tall skinny redhead with a soft heart and a hard kick.”  She swiveled around and studied the woman’s grim face.  “Oh, yes, I remember you. You’re my freshman English teacher, Mrs. Whitehall. How’d you get in with all the paparazzi blocking my door?”

     “I told them I used to teach at Hogwood High.  I suppose they let me in since I look harmless enough.”

     “Pull up a chair, Mrs. Whitehall.  You can just call me ‘Sandy’ like you did years ago.  I’ve got a few minutes if you wanna chat. The school band’s playing half an hour to get the crowd warmed up. Care for some herb tea?”

     “No thank you, Sandy, I’ve just had dinner.”

     “Are you retired now, Mrs. Whitehall?”

     “Yes, I started drawing my pension years ago.  I was forced to retire early  due to nervous strain.  Sandy, every day I thank the good Lord I don’t have to teach anymore.  My husband got a promotion at work, and the extra income enabled me to resign when working conditions became unbearable. My, but children are so rude these days.”

     Sandy’s face fell.  “Oh I’ve known that most of my life.  Know why they were rude to you too?”


     “Mrs. Whitehall, are you still a religious woman?”

     “If you mean whether I still serve Jesus, yes, I’m still a Christian woman.”

     “Ever hear this old saying: ‘Give the devil an inch and he’ll grab a mile’?”

     “I agree with you on that one, Sandy, but what does that have to do with today’s epidemic of disrespect toward teachers?”

     “Years ago, when Brad Bullard and his pals picked on me in your class you told me it was no big deal.  When they teased Kitty about her weight and drove her to tears you ‘tactfully’ told her life would get better if she stuck to her diet.  As if only skinny people are entitled to humane treatment!  When we complained to the principal he laughed.  You people just  said it was all part of growing up, a normal rite of passage. Case closed.  But when you get a taste of what I went through you ran out of that school like the devil himself was chasing you with a pitchfork.  Why is it a worse sin to torture grown-ups than kids?”

     Ignoring Sandy’s question, Mrs. Whitehall smiled smugly and said in a creamy voice, “Sandy, you know why I came by to see you, don’t you?”

     “Not to discuss the weather, I suppose.”

     Mrs. Whitehall patted Sandy’s hand. “Sandy, you and I are both growing older.  You’d better make your peace with God.  Tomorrow may be too late.”

    A wry grin worked at Sandy’s mouth. “Yeah, sure, I’ve heard it all before, Mrs. Whitehall.  Save the whole damn world for Jesus! You’re right, it is too late. It was too late a long time ago, Mrs. Whitehall.  Too late to save just one girl, Sandy Girard, from hell right here on this earth.”

     Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall said reproachfully, “I’m concerned about the fact you turned to that heathen Mr. Wakasaki for help instead of Jesus.”

     Sandy breathed hard and put her powder puff down.  “Mrs. Whitehall, Jesus, if He exists at all, is away up there in heaven and I’m stuck down here on this earth.  When I was a scared sixteen-year-old girl, I had only three people in my army: Me, myself and I.  If Jesus does anything in this earth, the only hands He’s got are the hands on the ends of your two arms.  I’ve done some research, Mrs. Whitehall.  A sizable  percentage of Americans claim they believe the Bible.  Statistical probability tells you at least 25% of kids at Hogwood High must have been churchgoing Christians. Now.  How many of them stood up for me when I was tripped up in the hall, lampooned in the school paper, shoved and kicked, pinched and punched, terrorized on the school bus?  Not a damn one of ‘em sat with me and poor little Kitty in the cafeteria.  And when she wasn’t around anymore, I sat all by my lonesome.  The day I got laughed out of school after those girls attacked me in the locker room, I was barely fourteen.  I took my anger out on these poor little things.”  She bared her forearms. Mrs. Whitehall cried out in shock when she saw the scars which covered the wiry forearms rippling with lean muscles hardened by frequent karate practice. She muttered something about sin under her breath.

       Sandy’s voice shook. “My parents were embarrassed about it, told me to tell everyone I’d had surgery for ‘muscular dysmorphia’ to straighten out twisted muscles in my arms, which was allegedly a rare inherited condition. Ha!  The doctor who stitched me up cooked up the alibi, said for us to tell respectable folks that tall tale to avoid speculation that it was a crazy suicide attempt. But I don’t think the kids at school bought that baloney. They knew.  You can’t fool kids.”

     Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall said, “you ought to know it’s a terrible sin to even consider suicide.  What on earth made you do it?”

      “I couldn’t run from my troubles and I wasn’t big enough to fight back.  And taking more of the same wasn’t an option anymore.  Part of it was  because of Christians who didn’t love Jesus enough to cross the slimeballs who picked on me.  Excuse my French, Mrs. Whitehall. I happen to know love is an action verb, and you don’t always find love in those religious cans called churches. Oh!  I forgot. You called Mr. Wakasaki a heathen because he taught me how to fight violent criminals. Are you saying it’s better if I just stand still and let some rapist in the alleyway attack me, possibly infect me with AIDS or do worse to me?”

     Mrs. Whitehall coughed and blushed. “I never said it was wrong to defend yourself against violence, Sandy.  But Jesus taught us to love our enemies and forgive all who transgress against us.  If they hit you on the right cheek offer your left one as well.”

       Sandy laughed bitterly.  “My, but it’s easy to be a good sport about somebody else’s suffering, isn’t it? All you’ll get for turning your cheek is your teeth knocked out. And what does a bully learn from patience except he can get away with wiping his dirty feet on a wimpy doormat who won’t fight back?”

     “You can’t benefit from anything our Savior taught unless you try it, Sandy. The way of our Savior is the path of peace toward all men. Karate is of the devil, even if you think it temporarily solves your problems.  Better to build bridges with your enemy than build walls.”

     Sandy felt slightly exasperated. “It may escape your notice, Mrs. Whitehall, but some people don’t want peace, and you can’t shove it down their throat. And why would anybody be dumb enough to build bridges with terrorists who plant demolitions in their life and would blow those bridges up? And as for me resorting to martial arts, you fine Christians chose that path for me. One day I swore I’d be damned if I stayed and took more abuse. So what other option did I have if churchgoing ‘Christian’ kids didn’t give a damn what happened to me?”

     Sandy, your language…” Mrs. Whitehall pursed her lips.

     “Hogwood High taught me every cuss word I know! What about all the cuss words I got called in school? That whole school’s one big cuss word.”

     Mrs. Whitehall raised her eyebrows.  Sandy, don’t you call your organization ‘Right to Respect’? And here you are, showing disrespect for your own school!”

     Sandy laughed.  “My school?  What a sick joke!  I got driven out of it not once, but twice, and didn’t even get to graduate from ‘my school!’. And as for respect, it’s earned.  Once you trample on my respect you lose the right to your own. I respect a dirty hog more than Hogwood High.  At least hogs don’t call people names.”

     “But Sandy, didn’t you respect anything about Hogwood High, at least a few of the teachers?”

     “Oh, a couple of ‘em were nice.  One in particular I remember spoke out against bullying.  A Cindy Franks…”

          Mrs. Whitehall frowned.  “That might have been her name, I don’t remember.  But if that’s the same one I’m thinking of, that woman didn’t last two weeks! She flouted Mr. Trent’s authority and took a few girls to Santa Cruz to play video games when it was supposed to have been an educational expedition!”

      “What good is ‘authority’ when it tolerates evil?” Sandy retorted.  “At least Mrs. Franks made me feel good about myself!  At least she treated me like a human being with feelings!  When did any one of you ‘authority figures’ ever do jack diddly squat to stop those kids who picked on my sweet friend Kitty Hawkins and  called her a fat a- -?” Sandy gnashed her teeth.

     Color drained from the elderly lady’s face.  Sandy, if you’d only try the way of patience and reconciliation.  Jesus was always meek and gentle.”

     “No thanks, I’d rather keep all my skinny bones in one piece, and it takes two to make peace, not just one.  Hey, wasn’t gentle Jesus the same dude who chased crooks out the church house with a whip?  Why should I let some bully violate the temple of my own body?”

     “Ah, Sandy, but Jesus also said ‘blessed are you when men curse you…”

      “Well, you can keep that kind of ‘blessing’ to yourself, sister! Now you’ve painted yourself in a corner for sure. If you seriously believe suffering’s a blessing, then why didn’t you just go on teaching, Mrs. Whitehall?  If you earn Brownie points with God by getting slapped around, you should have stayed on the job.  I think you’re contradicting yourself here.”

     The old lady knitted her brow. “I simply could not remain in an environment where students refuse to learn, Sandy. That’s an insult to my professional prowess.  Jesus did say ‘Don’t cast your pearls before swine.’

     “You’re right on that score,” Sandy said.  “That’s why I ran away from school.  I was too much of a precious pearl to let Hog Pen High kids trample me anymore.”

     “That’s Hogwood High, Sandy.”  Mrs. Whitehall looked miffed.

     “Whatever. Same difference.”  Sandy shrugged.

      “I’m still concerned about why you turned to Mr. Wakasaki instead of praying to God for help.” 

     “Drowners can’t be too choosy about which hand they grab to keep from sinking if only one hand’s stuck out, Mrs. Whitehall. As I said before, God has no hands in this world except your own. He might want to help but phony baloney religious folks tie His hands. My only option was to fight my own battles. Right after I went home at Christmas time, I got accosted by three girls from Hog Pen High.  They wanted my jacket.  All they saw was the weak worm they drove out of school.  Thought I’d be a pushover.  But I used my hard-learned skills to defend myself.  Then I ran off to avoid further conflict.”

     “Why didn’t you just give them the jacket, Sandy?”

     “Wasn’t it enough they stole my dignity? At least let me keep my jacket, for Pete’s sake.”

     “But surrendering the jacket would have been better than fighting, don’t you think?”

     “Listen, Mrs. Whitehall.  This isn’t just about a jacket. I don’t do ‘surrender’ no more. Bullies smell weakness like sharks smell blood.  I had to draw a line in the sand, right then and there, or they would have been back for more.”

     “But God deplores violence…”

     “Haven’t you ever read your own Bible, Mrs. Whitehall?  What about God nuking Sodom and Gomorrah, stuff like that?  God got tough when He had to.”

     “But it’s a sin to resort to violence to protect your property, Sandy.”

     “The only property I was protecting was my personal dignity, warning those scumbags to back off.  Now if you think I enjoy kicking butts, you’re breaking that commandment, ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’.”  

     “Why, I never…”  Mrs. Whitehall looked disgusted.

     “No, you never did, Mrs. Whitehall. You never did one kind, constructive thing to convince me to believe in a wimpy watered-down religion which passively tolerates evil and allows it to flourish in society. What was that part of the Bible which talks about the salt losing its flavor so it can’t preserve anything anymore?  You Christians claim to be the pros from Dover, the salt of the earth.  But look how rotten our schools are because you let criminals get away with murder.”

     “Don’t put the whole onus of this failure on us, Sandy.  A teaspoon of salt can’t preserve a ton of rotting meat.  Schools would fall apart even if no Christian teachers taught in them, and the law prohibits us from sharing our faith…”

     Sandy interrupted, “Funny how you guys brag about America being a Christian nation. Oh yeah, you crave all the honor and glory which comes with that but none of the responsibility. You’d rather spout platitudes than live your alleged beliefs. I hate to tell you, but sometimes you have to fight the bad to protect the good and you teachers, Christian and otherwise, refused to do that.  All you do is stonewall the truth away and whitewash your own failure to live by that Book you always quote. Are you even dimly aware of what I went through? It wasn’t just the bruises and filthy insults that drove me out of town.  Brad Bullard and his gang kept saying, ‘Go stretch your neck with a rope, giraffe’.  And, ‘Why don’t you and your fat a- -  friend just gas yourselves?”

     Mrs. Whitehall felt it would be beneath her dignity to own up to collective guilt so conveniently buried and forgotten so long ago. “I’m sorry you had to hear such unkind comments, Sandy.  But surely those children were only joking.”

     Sandy gave her a steely stare. “So what if I’d taken their advice and attempted suicide again?  What if I’d died?  Where would I be today?  Hell?”

     Mrs. Whitehall lowered her eyes, nodded.

      “Let’s explore other possible spinoff ramifications which could have happened, Mrs. Whitehall. What if those ‘children’ had driven me to kill myself?  No law in the land would convict them because it was allegedly my personal choice to die.  Let’s say the bullies drove me to suicide, then got religion and prayed to Jesus for forgiveness.  I’d be down in hell shoveling coal, so where would they go?”

     “Heaven,” Mrs. Whitehall whispered, looking away.

      Sandy laughed bitterly.  “We discussed this before if my memory serves me right, but you sidestepped the question and I never got an answer. What you’re telling me is, the poor victim fries in hell while those who sent her down there get to dance with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates!  Don’t take me for an idiot, Mrs. Whitehall.  I have issues with any religion  where its adherents hear no evil, see no evil, and let the devil torture people in school, then they not only damn the sacrificial victim to hell but reward the terror technicians with heaven!  Now I might look dumb, but I ain’t that stupid!”

     “I never said you were stupid, Sandy. All I mean is,  it’s far better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

     “That’s the trouble with you Christians,” Sandy retorted.  “You don’t do the stuff in your own Book, just resort to tired, worn-out clichés. Not only do you refuse to curse the darkness, you wet nurse it so much it grows and grows like fungus till it snuffs out that one tiny candle you sing and shout about.  But the real truth is, you can’t love good without hating evil. You’d far rather see kids kill themselves than frown at the criminals who drive them to it. It’s okay for innocent kids to die but oh, no, we mustn’t tell somebody they’re rotten and evil for promoting suicide.  That might be too politically incorrect!

        “Another minor point, Mrs. Whitehall.  While Hogwood High Christians kissed up to the sinners, I got driven out of school for being an odd-sized apple, not once but twice! If a girl isn’t between five-four and five-nine, she’s treated like a freak!  If she’s got a little too much meat on her bones like Kitty, she’s a big sack of garbage.  If Dad hadn’t shelled out for a private tutor to help me finish ninth grade, I would have had to go back to that stinking school  with both arms still in bandages!  How many Hogwood High kids, Christian or otherwise, called or visited to see if I was all right?  Yah, that’s Christian love for you!”

      Mrs. Whitehall’s face was pale.  Her heart beat fast.  “You’ve grown hard, Sandy. You used to be such a sweet girl,” she said weakly.  “What happened?”

     “Other people beat the sweet out of me, I guess. Soft people get stepped on like worms. Only tough cookies survive in a world like this.  That’s why you couldn’t teach in a shark pool and I couldn’t learn in one.”

     “Oh, Sandy, if only you’d turn that hurt over to God.  He really does exist.”

     “You people never did prove that to me.  If God’s so powerful why didn’t He make those ‘Christian’ kids treat me any better?”

     “God can’t force anyone to do what is right, Sandy.  It has to be their own freewill choice.”

     “Yeah, freewill and choices, Mrs. Whitehall. Wish I’d had a choice about what happened to me in that school.  It was the ‘Christian’ kids who made the freewill choice to go along with the bullies. Oh, they reassured themselves they weren’t doing anything bad, just pretending everything was peachy.”

     “But we were praying for you, Sandy,” the teacher meekly protested.

     Sandy coughed.  “Yeah, right!  Sure you were! Like that time I stood outside the door while Denise and Jolene that it must be my fault those creeps were picking on me.  Does the ‘boils of Job’ ring a bell with you, since you know the Bible so well?”

     “Job got his boils for being rebellious against God, Sandy.  And that’s how you got your bullies.”

    Sandy almost choked on her frustration from listening to so much stupidity.  She got up from her seat, found an empty cardboard box.  She boxed the box  over and over, flipping it in the air.  Mrs. Whitehall cringed.

   “Now I feel better,” Sandy said, reseating herself before the mirror.

     Sandy, no need to be angry,” Mrs. Whitehall said meekly.

     “Let me tell you something, Mrs. Whitehall,” Sandy breathed hotly, as the little woman stared at her in disbelief and fright.  “I didn’t like being blamed for my own hurt and humiliation when I was at Hogwood High, and I still resent the insinuation that I brought that hell on myself.  Bullies bully because they’re bullies, and it’s always the bullies’ fault!  When a burglar robs a home, people don’t blame the homeowner for owning lots of nice things that attracted the burglar. But when bullies stole my dignity I got blamed because there must have been something about me that attracted the bullies!”

    “We weren’t trying to be mean, Sandy, we only said there’s never an effect without a cause,” Mrs. Whitehall said. Proverbs 26:2 says there’s a cause behind every curse that comes on you.”

     Sandy cackled, angrily.  “Yeah, guess you could say that, Mrs. Bullard. Bullies were my curse and my cross to bear, and what caused the bullies was sheer carelessness.”

     “Glad you see it my way, Sandy,” the little lady smiled smugly.  “It takes a big woman to admit she was careless and brought misery on herself.”

     “Yeah, Brad Bullard and Wayne Woodcock’s mothers would be very big-hearted to admit they were careless the night they forgot their birth control and conceived those creeps, wouldn’t they?  Ha! Ha! Ha!  Gotcha there!”

     It was almost too much for the old lady’s heart.  “Oh, Sandy, it’s not very feminine to act the way you do.”

     Sandy smirked and shrugged.  “And it’s not very safe to be other than what I am.  Oh, I could have been a dainty, soft-spoken powder puff.  But the bullies wouldn’t let me be that way.  I had to fight for my right to survive.  Better a live tiger than a dead kitten.”

    “Oh, Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall pleaded, “please don’t be bitter. Jesus was with you while you suffered all that.  You just didn’t see Him.”

     “You’ve just answered your own question, Mrs. Whitehall.  I didn’t see that Jesus of love you’re always singing about. So why didn’t I?  Were those kids so scared of the bullies they kept Christ hidden away till they were ready to take him out of His box for one hour on Sunday?”

     Mrs. Whitehall patted her arm.  “You have to realize, they’re only human, just like you, Sandy.  People do get scared.”

     Sandy laughed bitterly. “Let’s see if I’ve got this straight, Mrs. Whitehall. Church people sing ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ and Jesus is allegedly their general.  What other army on earth hides under the bed and just hopes the big bad boogerman will go away if they sing enough sweet songs at it?  What other army on earth is so ashamed of their own general as church people are of Jesus, once church is all over and they’re back out in the real world?”

     “Those children were immature, Sandy, you must understand that.  The devil is responsible for all the wickedness in this world.”

     “You see the devil in Mr. Wakasaki, Mrs. Whitehall.  But I saw him every single day in those rotten kids that bullied me on the bus.”

     “Who bullied me,” her old teacher corrected.

    “I deliberately said ‘that’,” Sandy said.  “Those kids acted like savage animals, so to me, they’re less than human. They referred to me as an ‘it’ so why shouldn’t I dehumanize those unwanted ghosts of my past? That way it hurts less.”

   “You’re better than that, Sandy.”

     Sandy chuckled.  “That’s news by me. Aren’t you the same one who called me a sinner?”

    Mr. Whitehall said ruefully, “Oh, Sandy, Satan is making you so bitter.  You ought to love those poor children.  They need love, not hate.”  

    “So did I, Mrs. Whitehall. But nobody thought of that at Hogwood High, not even Christians.  And as for the devil, if he really exists, those kids were his tools.  Do you love the knife that’s carving your soul into tiny pieces, even if it’s a little knife?”

     “Perhaps their parents didn’t understand them, Sandy…”

      “Let’s get back to square one, Mrs. Whitehall.  For now forget the devil’s kids.  Let’s concentrate on God’s alleged kids. Now If I’d taken my own life God wouldn’t have understood I was just an immature kid.  He’d have sent me to hell for it.  Right?”

     Grimly she nodded.

     “Not once in my life, Mrs. Whitehall, have I ever claimed to be anything but an imperfect human being who tries to learn from my mistakes and do right by other people. If I kick somebody else, it’s only to defend against attack. But those ‘Christians’ at Hogwood High probably bragged in church about how they’d go to the furthest reaches of Africa and die for Jesus.  But they were too ashamed to live for Him at school. If they weren’t kicking me when I was down they were condoning it or ignoring it.  Why wouldn’t God hold them at least as accountable as someone like me, who doesn’t even claim to be perfect?”

     Mrs. Whitehall looked at her pleadingly.  “If only I could find the right words to convince you…”

     “That’s all your religion is, Mrs. Whitehall, only words.  Now I’m not a religious gal,  but I do believe words are just so much hot air unless you live ‘em. I read the Bible of your life every single day. I couldn’t take what you said seriously if you didn’t take me seriously as a valuable person. Mr. Wakasaki always knew I was worth something even if others didn’t.  Heathen is as heathen does.  Who was there for me when I was all alone in the world and needed help?  Not one of you goody-two-shoes Christians defended my dignity when I got humiliated in the cafeteria and the locker room. Wouldn’t give a plug nickel for any of ya. Not one of you holier-than-thou churchgoers raised one whimper of protest about bullying at Hogwood High.  You just turned a blind eye and let the devil do his dirty work! Now I might be no Bible expert, Mrs. Whitehall, but what was that Jesus said about loving your neighbor as yourself?  If you’d been on the receiving end instead of the observing end, wouldn’t you have wanted someone to protect you by throwing those bums out of school?”

     Mrs. Whitehall laughed nervously.  Sandy, you’re missing my point.  Violence is morally unacceptable.”

     “Well then, why is it okay for the bullies to be violent, Mrs. Whitehall? Why are they treated with kid gloves? Is school staff too afraid to get tough with them?”

     “We always tried to let students settle their differences among themselves, Sandy.  Adolescents need to learn the art of give and take.”

      “Funny how I was always the one who did all the taking.  C---, that is” Sandy fumed.

     The genteel lady lightly waved her hand.  “No need for profanity, Sandy.  So many times it was your word against theirs, and we had to be impartial in enforcing discipline.”

      “Yeah, right, Mrs. Whitehall, impartiality. Ain’t that the damnedest disciplinary policy any school ever came up with? Impartiality.  Ignore that mounting mountain of evidence against the bullies.  That wimpy policy has caused multiple thousands of health and safety violations in schools nationwide. If I have my way, bullying victims will start bringing loco parentis lawsuits against negligent schools.  A loco parentis violation could result from the refusal of school officials to restrain or suspend aggressive pupils who are known to inflict physical or emotional injuries on a targeted victim.  That’s also a health and safety violation prosecutable by law.”

     “What do you mean by ‘loco parentis’, Sandy?”

     “Loco parentis means ‘in place of the parent’.  By law in most states, children are required to attend school between the ages of 6 and 16.  In some states kids go to preschool when they’re four and kindergarten when they’re five. So bullying could start even in the formative years of a child’s life. Once that kid gets dropped off at school, the teacher and other school authorities assume legal responsibility for the safety and well-being of the child, in the parent’s  place.  Now.  What if little Susie got badly beaten up day after day in her own home?  If state welfare officials found out about it, wouldn’t they probably arrest the parents for failure to ensure the well-being of that child? Wouldn’t they even remove that child from its own home for his or her own protection?”

     “Oh, I suppose,”  Mrs. Whitehall muttered.  “But you managed to survive.”   

     “Oh I survived, just barely, but too many other kids killed themselves to get away from your ‘impartial discipline’. Funny, but I remember one girl getting expelled just for drawing a provocative picture and showing it to other students.  And all that time big bad Bullard and his buddies got away with verbal and physical assault. Why is a drawing of a naked body a worse sin than attacking another student’s body?  Why is character assassination, emotional torture and criminal assault tolerated in our schools while racy artwork is a hanging offense?”

      Mrs. Whitehall raised her nose.  “But surely that Wakasaki fellow is no solution to your dilemma. He taught you to break bones instead of building bridges.  He taught you to form fists with your hands instead of using them to reach out in love.”

     “Mr. Wakasaki taught me to avoid fights and get away from enemies.  But I couldn’t do that at Hogwood High or on that stinking school bus,” Sandy retorted.  “He also taught me to fight off enemies by inflicting minimal damage whenever they forced a fight on me I didn’t want. Can’t say the same for the bullies, Mrs. Whitehall.  They did the worst they thought they could get away with!”

     “You must keep things in proper perspective, Sandy.  Chances are those bullies matured out of their bad behavioral patterns.  Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them went on to get married and build happy homes and families.”

     “Hooray for them, Mrs. Whitehall.  Bullies get to forget and go on and have a happy life after leaving their victims’ self-esteem down in the toilet.  They get off the hook while their victims are  sentenced to a lifetime of picking up the  broken pieces of their hearts and struggling to feel good about themselves again. So where’s the justice in that?”

     Sandy, it’s selfish of you to want justice instead of showing mercy, and…”

     “Well, doesn’t your Bible teach there’s gonna be a Judgment Day for sinners?  If God wants the scales of justice to be balanced then why shouldn’t I?”

     Mrs. Whitehall kept pressing her point. “My word, Sandy, is that what Wakasaki taught you, to begrudge your enemies their happiness in life?”

     “Well, isn’t that what they did to me when they robbed me of happiness at Hogwood High?  They begrudged me even basic human dignity.”

      “But Sandy, you’ll find in the pages of Scripture…”   

      Sandy threw a wad of Kleenex on her grooming stand. “Hogwash! That’s just a cop-out and it won’t cut it with me! Don’t use the Good Book to whitewash the unforgivable sin you people committed against me! If it wasn’t for Mr. Wakasaki I’d probably be dead right now.  So far as I’m concerned, if you truly believe something you’ll live it. Jesus taught love, or at least that’s what people say.  So where was your Christian love when I needed it!”  Sandy said indignantly, her voice raw.

     Sandy,” the older woman said soothingly, “you know I love you, but I must warn you against Satan’s way of fighting evil.  It will only lead you to a worse hell than you ever experienced on earth.”

     “All I know is you forced me to choose between two hells,” Sandy fumed.  “And as for love, love is as love does.  It’s easy to love Jesus so long as He doesn’t make you unpopular. All I ever got from the ‘Christians’ at your school was a cold shoulder and funny looks. What’s a worse sin, Mrs. Whitehall, being too cowardly to protect lonely kids from hell on earth, or fighting to save yourself from the hell you’re already in?”

     “You’re calling me a coward, Sandy?”

     “Doesn’t matter what I say.  The biggest danger is lying to yourself.”

     A rap on the door.  “Mrs. Franklestone! They’re ready for you!”

     “Be out in a minute!” Sandy hollered back. My zipper’s stuck! Play another number!”

     Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall said piously, “I told you a long time ago to bear patiently with suffering.  It builds character.  Don’t let it make you bitter.”

     “Well, I’m not so sure it shouldn’t make you bitter,” Sandy said.  “One day I burnt a bunch of cookies on the bottom.  Tasted so sour the birds wouldn’t eat ‘em. If I get burnt by too many people for too long, chances are I’ll taste bitter too.”

     Mrs. Whitehall fumbled with her purse.  “Ah, Sandy, that’s partly what I’m here about.  You’re on a campaign to stir up lynch mobs against bullies.  That’s not the way of forgiveness.”

     “Here we go again.”  Sandy rolled up her eyes.  “No use goin’ round and round again and beatin’ a dead horse.  Mrs. Whitehall, I’m a member of a social activist organization, not a lynch mob.  We campaign for the protection of vulnerable individuals and groups from injustice, whether that injustice is perpetrated by one bully or an army of bullies. I get a sneaky suspicion you oppose our campaign to get Congress to pass a Ban the Bully Bill.  Am I right?”

     “Yes, Sandy, but I oppose it because it would also offer protection to gays and enable them to live that decadent lifestyle at school.”

     “Run that by me again?”

     “If gays are included in the protection provided by such legislation they’ll only proliferate in our schools because they have nothing to fear.”

     Sandy looked disgusted.  Her jaw quivered. “I’m honestly struggling to see where you’re coming from, Mrs. Whitehall.  Me, I’m married to a man and wouldn’t have it any other way.  But laws should protect everybody from crazy Neanderthal lynch mobs.  You’re saying gays ought to get beaten up in school as punishment for being that way?  Do I read you right?”

     “I didn’t say that, Sandy.  But if gay students felt no social pressure against that terrible lifestyle…”

     “Social pressure!”  Sandy snorted.  “Does God save anybody with social pressure and bullying?  If God operates that way you can count me out.”

     “Oh, Sandy,” Mrs. Whitehall pleaded, “Mr. Wakasaki worships dragons and devils.  He’ll only lead you down to hell!”

     “Mr. Wakasaki worships no one,” Sandy said.  “He just tries to be a better guy than he was the day before. He doesn’t wave some Bible around to save souls.  He just meditates on how he can spread love and good will and do more to help his neighbor. And if you’re so all-fired concerned about me roasting in hell, why didn’t you save me from the biggest hell of all: that big toilet called Hog Pen High School?”

    The old teacher sucked in her breath. “Sandy, must you resort to such metaphors?  How dare you insult our school!  I can’t believe you said that! Our school turns out the finest citizens…”

     “That’s a big crock of horse----, Mrs Whitehall, and I said what I said because I meant it! That rotten school churned out low-life criminals, not saints.  Snort the Hog had a better soul than most of the kids there. And what’s more, it’s not ‘our’ school, it’s your school! A torture chamber where bullies took a s--- on my self-esteem day in and day out!”

   A choking cry of horror gripped Mrs. Whitehall’s throat. She felt too weak to get up to go.  Sandy,” she gasped, “who taught you such vile  swear words?”

     “Hog Pen High did.  Marinate a kid in a social sewer and it takes forever to shake off the smell of the place! Just to achieve some sort of closure not once but three times I wrote letters to Hogwood High.  I told them that since I’d been publicly humiliated there so many years ago, they needed to publicly apologize to me. But all three times my letters went unacknowledged.  No apology for putting me through years of hell which caused self-harm, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares.  The fourth time, I phoned that rotten school and warned them they wouldn’t be allowed to bury their guilt like cat c---- I told them that either I got that apology or I’d do unto them as they did unto me and name and shame their school all over the nation on my Right to Respect-Ban the Bully Campaign.  And I told them if they threatened me with a libel suit, I possess written records of the abuse I suffered there. In my last year there I started recording every major incident, every date meticulously, just so I could state my case someday in a court of law and not have to rely on the subjective evidence of memories.  Edgar, my husband, persuaded me not to even bother suing Hog Pen High.  Said Mr. Wakasaki had restored my self-esteem, that the school had probably forgotten about it anyway, we didn’t need their dirty money, and I hadn’t been hurt career-wise because of the bullying.”

     Mrs. Whitehall shrugged.  “All any defense attorney would claim is you fabricated those records later in life just to filch money out of the school district.”

     “That’s a dirty lie!” Sandy pulled the old notebook out of her stack of notes.  “Here’s my evidence.  All any forensic expert would have to do is run a carbon-14 analysis to verify its authenticity. And my handwriting’s still the same today.”

     Mrs. Whitehall waved her hands.  “Sandy, Sandy, it’s so un-Christian to desire revenge.”

     “I’m not talkin’ about revenge, Mrs. Whitehall, just basic justice.”

     “But it happened so long ago…”

     “God doesn’t look at it that way, if what you’ve said about hell is true. Every time you got a minute alone with somebody, you threatened them with fire and brimstone if they didn’t convert to your religion. And if God does send sinners to hell, then what about the guys who threw Christians to the lions?  Will there be a judgment day for them?”

     “Yes, but…”

     “Now I’d say throwing people into a big blast furnace for trillions of years is a form of revenge.  Even if it isn’t, it sure does feel like revenge!  Those Christians who got thrown to the lions, that happened 2,000 years ago, Mrs. Whitehall. Now if God’s gonna fry Nero’s fanny  in hell for what he did that long ago, surely He’ll have something to say to bullies who are driving kids to their deaths in 2012.  Which brings me to this pertinent point: “Am I better than God?  If He wants justice for the way people make Him mad, why shouldn’t bullied kids want it too?

      “By the way, Mrs. Whitehall, see how old my notebook looks?”

     Steamed, Sandy quickly flipped through a few pages, pointing.    “There.  Ya see?  Tripped in the hall, made me sprain my ankle.  Ganged up on in the locker room, just like that earlier incident which caused these scars on my wrists.  Now…”  Sandy turned to Wednesday, April 24, 1985, the day her dream alter ego fended off Brad Bullard. 

     Amazing.  The events of her dream were recorded instead of the original atrocities. All pages covering April 24 to the end looked brand new, as if freshly written pages had replaced old ones in the notebook. 

     She inspected it more closely.  No signs of tampering.  Maybe the boundary between dreams and reality had criss-crossed in a weird warpature of time and space!

      Sandy, you’ve grown quiet. You look like you’d seen a ghost,” Mrs. Whitehall said.  “Would you like me to open the Good Book and lead you to salvation?”

     “No, but I am ready to show you that part where Mr. Wakasaki saved me from satan’s little helpers.”

     “But he can’t save you from hell!”  the lady protested.       

     “He’s already saved me from hell!  The hell you and other ‘Christians’ helped create for me when you enabled bullies to do satan’s work unopposed.  So who are you to take the moral high ground and try to turn me into just another Bible-totin’ hypocrite who turns a blind eye while kids die!”

     Mrs. Whitehall looked shell-shocked.  Sandy continued, “We’re all the byproduct of our life experiences.  I am what I am today largely thanks to you and every other ‘Christian’ who ostracized me when I fought my own war alone and needed a friend.  So don’t come barging in here blaming me for being a freedom fighter who’s on a nationwide Right to Respect-Ban the Bully Campaign.  All we’re trying to do is save innocent kids from paying for your sins.”

     Another knock on Sandy’s door.  “Mrs. Franklestone, we need you to come as soon as possible.  The crowd is getting restless.”

     “I’m all revved up and rarin’ to go, Jack!” Sandy shouted, scooping up her notes. “Sorry, Mrs. Whitehall, gotta go.”

     They both left the dressing room.  Sandy looked  gorgeous in her burgundy gown, intricately patterned with delicate beadwork.   Gossamer sleeves swept down to her long silver and turquoise bracelets, which only enhanced her beauty. Around her waist she proudly wore her Broken Rainbow Warrior Belt. She  locked the door, then turned away without a further word to the woman.  Cherishing her dream, she walked out to the stage, beaming her sunniest smile. 

     Mrs. Whitehall silently wept.  Too little, too late.