By Carolyn Dawson (Windsor, ON)

Fleabag and Underdog:

Shy and self-conscious, I followed the popular kids like a puppy. I didn't care that I was at the bottom of the pack, the underdog doing the alpha's grunt work (anything that would please the pack).

The school bus ride was about 45 minutes, which gave the alpha time to mastermind. On this particular March day, I remember it like it was yesterday, the alpha ordered me to tell the quiet girl, the one sitting across the isle from me reading a paperback, that she had fleas. I complied, reluctantly.

The pack responded with boisterous cheers. The alpha ordered me to call the girl a fleabag. Swollen with pride, I bellowed, You're a fleabag! Hey, fleabag! The pack barked and howled. Fleabag cried.

From across the isle, I watched her sob into her paperback. Ashamed, I leaned toward her to apologize and she hit me in the head with the novel, hard. The pack roared, You just got hit by a fleabag!

I realized that being the object of their heckling was torture. I decided, right there and then, to leave the pack. I humbly apologized to fleabag and she smiled and invited me to sit beside her. I slid across the isle, grateful for my new friend-my fleabag friend.

The following month, the alpha was expelled for making a girl eat chalk, and the second-in-command failed grade eight. Two others never graduated high school.

Fleabag and I remain friends.

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