School Days & The Lonely Hearts Killer

“What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.”  –Henry David ThoreauJournal, 1850

I despised school—or schools, for I was always changing from one to another—and year after year failed the simplest subjects out of loathing and boredom. I played hooky at least twice a week and was always running away from home. Once I ran away with a friend who lived across the street—a girl much older than myself who in later life achieved a certain fame. Because she murdered a half-dozen people and was electrocuted at Sing Sing. Someone wrote a book about her. They called her the Lonely Hearts Killer. But there, I’m wandering again.

Well, finally, I guess I was around twelve, the principal at the school I was attending paid a call on my family, and told them that in his opinion, and in the opinion of the faculty, I was “subnormal.” He thought it would be sensible, the humane action, to send me to some special school equipped to handle backward brats. Whatever they may have privately felt, my family as a whole took official umbrage, and in an effort to prove I wasn’t subnormal, pronto packed me off to a psychiatric study clinic at a university in the East where I had my I.Q. inspected.

I enjoyed it thoroughly and —guess what?—came home a genius, so proclaimed by science. I don’t know who was the more appalled: my former teachers, who refused to believe it, or my family, who didn’t want to believe it— they’d just hoped to be told I was a nice normal boy. Ha ha!

Truman Capote, in a 1957 interview with The Paris Review


School Days 55-56

When it all went wrong for me.


My childhood, the buildings changed

but the system remained the same.

Onerous.  Endless.

School no place for a boy like me.

When the principal at the school

in the opinion of the faculty

raised a red flag

I met with a shrink

who said I was closed and withdrawn.

Nobody asked me

what I thought of him.

Went from advanced math

to regular math

to bonehead math.

If high school had been five years,

I would’ve flunked out.

Ninety as a frosh, then eighty, seventy, sixty.

Every semester, the grades went down.

Down.  I am a loser.

Thirteen kids won state scholarships.

Eleven of those kids were in National Honor Society.

Then there was me and my buddy Billy O’Thuse.

I am a winner.

Of course, I turned down the scholarship

and went to a small private religious school.

The precise exact antithesis

of where I should probably have gone.

Flunked out.

Don’t get me wrong.  Not like I studied.

Hard for me to do school.

Assignments, schedules, tests, bells, assholes.

Girls in short skirts.

Miss Caterina, the new biology teacher.



No place for a boy like me.

Hard for me to focus.

Hard for me to…

Just hard.


Turns out, what they figured,

I must be missing the drone gene.


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