My parents transferred me to an alternative school in the area called Phoenix; probably because they hoped that I would rise from the ashes of my burned scholastic record and maybe even get an education.
It was probably the worst place I could be. I was a young punk without a rudder, and now I was associating with an entire school of young punks without rudders. My pot smoking increased, and I became exposed to other new and interesting illegal drugs.
Phoenix alternative school encouraged the criminal in me. At the prodding of my newfound associates, I began experimenting with acid and magic mushrooms. We rapidly burned up all the pot we could get our hands on.
My mother and father had separated from each other at this time, and my buddies and I used to break into my dadís place. My dad was a hippy and, like most hippies, he occasionally smoked some pot. As his son, I knew where all the good hiding places in the house were. Weíd steal it, smoke most of it, and go to school with a little extra. Some of the best pot we ever smoked was stolen from my Dadís stash.
Despite my juvenile delinquency, I still had a broad streak of human decency left inside me. Although, I really disliked the Phoenix alternative school and a lot of the oddballs, juvenile alcoholics, and head cases that it brought me into contact with, I did enjoy one class.
Pat Delford, Sr. was a psuedo biker that made a living teaching at the Phoenix alternative school. He wore his hair long and tied it back in a pony tail. Every day I would look forward to taking his pottery class.
One day he had left the class for a few minutes and almost everyone in the class began throwing bits of clay at the clock that hung on the wall near the door. Thad, a student in the class who was mildly mentally retarded and didnít really know any better, began to emulate the other students. Chaos reigned and clay fell in lumpy showers, rolling under foot, sticking to the wall and to the clock.
For once I had actually been more interested in the project that I was doing, and while others were wasting clay decorating the walls of the classroom, I was working with my clay.
When Mr. Delford returned it didnít take him long to ascertain that something was amiss. Perhaps it was how a poorly-aimed throw from Thad hit him in the chest. Still, the sheer quantity of clay that had been thrown couldnít be accounted for by just Thad, and Mr. Delford probably figured that it was unlikely that Thad conceived of this mischief on his own. He must have had accomplices.
Mr. Delford ordered Thad to stand by the door and angrily demanded any of the other culprits to confess. He stood in front of the classroom, hands clasped behind his back as his accusing eyes roved across the students in his classroom. Many of the students that he had respected, and trusted the most had been involved.
I looked at how Thad stood forlornly by the doorway, shoulders sagging and head hanging. Somehow I couldnít bear to see him take the brunt of the punishment alone. It would go easier on him if one of the students throwing clay confessed. But most of the students at Phoenix didnít get there because of their willingness to confess to their mistakes. No one came forward.
Finally, I couldnít stand it any more and, though innocent, I raised my hand with a false confession.
I got permanently kicked out of the class.
My Mom didnít know what to do with me. It was just one more act of incorrigibility that she was ill equipped to handle. She sent me back to live with my grandparents. My health had been suffering because of the experimental drug use Iíd been subjecting my body to. With this in mind, and with the encouragement of my grandparents I quit doing drugs cold turkey.
Despite the fact that I lived, the medicine and treatment they prescribed seemed horribly ineffectual. It took me until I was sixteen years old before it really dawned on me that I had cystic fibrosis. My grandparents had always hinted around that I was sick, but now I knew that I really was. From the time I was four or five, my parents became heavily involved in a religious group called The Way Ministry. This group believed in faith healing. Iím not saying that faith healing doesnít exist, but as a result of their belief they ignored a few of the doctors to my detriment.