I hadn’t seen Leo for awhile before the principal’s office was ransacked one weekend and I never saw him after that . . The school secretary had related a tale of an odd phone call she had received . She told it to the principal , as well as anyone and everyone who would listen , and the principal related it to the cops .
The secretary said someone had called the school and said ” Did you get my answer ? ” and the person hung up before she could say anything . She said the voice sounded suspiciously like Leo’s . She said that , since the call came a day after the robbery and vandalism in the principal’s office , Leo was probably calling to confirm that it had been him .
Leo had been kicked out of Saint Clement School a week or so before the weekend incident . People began including the name Leo in discussions of the incident . ” It must have been Leo “, they’d say ,” It had to have been .”
It wasn’t Leo . After the cops went to his house with a search warrant and looked around they found no evidence to involve him . Three weeks after the robbery a local guy who had been a former janitor at St. Clement and who had been fired from the job went into a liquor store that was three blocks from the scene of the crime and tried to buy beer with a school check . He had the school checkbook with him . The liquor store owner called the cops , who arrested the guy .
Leo would have been a hell of a lot smarter than that if he had broken in to the school office and stolen stuff .Leo was a sharp little kid . In second grade he stood up in Domini the ex-nun’s class and said , very assertively , ” I don’t believe in God ! ” Then Leo calmly sat down and quietly waited for the fallout . His announcement was enough to drive Domini , who was a little emotionally off anyway , the rest of the way off . She wanted Leo castrated and crucified and kicked out of school .
Leo’s sixth grade teacher was a man who considered himself very culturally aware . He was a patient , tolerant , sensitive teacher who strove to make a difference in the world , who strove to be accepting of everyone . Leo had this guy’s number . He began wearing a hair net to class . He wore it day after day . His teacher wondered about it but said nothing . Day after day the teacher pondered the hair net . He was distracted and concerned . He discussed the issue with his wife . Should he say something to Leo about it ? Did it violate the uniform policy ? Why was Leo wearing it ? If he didn’t say something to Leo about it , then what might be next ? Was it passive acceptance that anything goes in his class ? It was driving the teacher nuts . Day , after day , after day .
Finally the teacher asked Leo about the hair net . ” It’s not part of the uniform,” he said . ” You shouldn’t wear it to class .”
” It’s part of my culture ! ” Leo responded , sounding offended . Then he was quiet and waited for the fallout . Leo knew exactly what he had done . There were no more words from the teacher . His introverted response was internal turmoil and self-doubt and longer , more agonized discussions with his wife . What should he do about Leo’s hair net , if anything ?
And then , one day , Leo stopped wearing the hair net . This left the issue eternally unresolved in the teacher’s mind . What should have been done , if anything , about Leo’s hair net ? His wife told him to forget it ; it was done ; it didn’t matter any more . But years later when he re-told the hair net story it seemed obvious that the incident still nagged him .
Leo had the gift , if that’s the word , of seeing the inner demons in people and he intentionally riled them up . He somehow saw that a person’s self-conscious strengths could also be their vulnerability and he devised precise and sophisticated tactics to attack and to challenge those supposed strengths . Leo , mysteriously , saw into human souls , I think . Leo was a pre-teen prophet , of sorts , calling people to task and challenging their beliefs .
Prophets are not often welcomed , I guess , even adolescent ones . In seventh grade Leo got kicked out of the school for upsetting and unsettling the wrong person , or perhaps for bothering the wrong people for too long . Prophets are not often appreciated .