Bent Twig

Bent Twig

By Bernie Suttle

 police officer and megaphone

I heard the bullhorn. “Throw down your weapon, stand up, put  your hands on top of your head.” Bruno remembered what his Dad always said, “Stupid. Stupid.  As Stupid is, Stupid does. You’re going to school makes no sense. You’ll just be an educated idiot.”

I was six-years old and in first grade. Dad’s judgment followed my not closing the door all the way and the dog got out. This wasn’t the first time he called me, “Stupid.” He called me that so often I would mutter to myself, “Stupid Bruno, Stupid Bruno.” If I knew my father’s name for me, maybe he’d smile at me. My mother was also called, “Stupid,” often enough that she no longer became angry, but she did drink beer. She drank so much that Dad said he could do better, so he left us when I was seven.

One morning Mom sat at the table. Her friend, Fred, had left before breakfast. She had dark marks on each cheek.

“Bruno, honey, I’ve signed my State check. Take it down to Mr. Park at the Corner Store to pay our bill and bring back a six-pack of Country Club Stout. I’ve told him it’s OK.”

Bruno’s teacher read her Daily Memo from the principal on way to the First Grade classroom. “Good news. Even with our budget cuts we will have a full teacher staff this year. However, student counseling will be reduced to one roving counselor for the six grammar schools in our district.” 

Miss Pangborn, my first grade teacher, divided our class into groups according to our ability. I started in the middle group and in short order had descended to the bottom of the bottom group. With each demotion she would smile and say, “You’ll be more comfortable now and do better.”

The other kids began to call me, “Zero.”

“Until I was thirteen I was harassed.  Never helped by school people. Truancy, fighting with other kids at school. I quit going to school. Was harassed by police: shop-lifting, joy riding, all BS charges. The judge threw me into The Youth Authority Jail until I was eighteen when I graduated to the prison system for similar BS charges.”

Bruno carried these messages into his late twenties when he walked once again into the yard at the California Men’s Colony.

“Hey, Skank, been here before?”

“Yeah, couple times. I’m no fish.”

“How long you doin’?”

“Six months.”

“What charge?”

“BS charge. Wife beating. The bitch’s old lady caused it.”

“You’re new here but I could tell you’ve been a con.”

Sergeant O.C. Weber ordered, “Kurtz, Bruno. Give me your claim tick for your trouble you gave us when you were jailed. Sign that you got it when I give it to you. That’s all, then you’re out. See ya next time, stupid.”

“That last word stung again. It was their first name for me at the Youth Authority when I was thirteen. I don’t want ever to be called that again. I’m going to get even.”

Bruno dug in near the top of El Cerro Mountain with his M40 A5 rifle. With the LP scope he had a clear view of the corral below. The Guards’ Annual Picnic was held as usual in the corral area of the landmark hotel that backed up to El Cerro Mountain. The first shot coming from the mountain hit and killed Sergeant O.C. Weber seated on his family blanket. The next shots were equally effective, killing seven other guards.

In the next three hours several hundred uniformed personnel and two helicopters killed the alleged perp, Bruno Kurtz, with 87 body and head hits.

They heard Bruno’s last words, “Stupid, Stupid, Stupid…”



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