Before I was a high school graduate, wearing a cap and gown
and smiling for the camera, before I was a Boy Scout displaying
a sash decorated with merit badges, I was a Cub Scout, because
my Mom put me in Cub Scouts. Something happened to me then,
or, rather, I did something, when I was eleven, as a Cub Scout,
that I have never told a single soul about,
something that I want to tell you, now that I’m thirty-two,
now that I’m a little more free to live as a I please,
now that people and things appear to me a bit more clear.
My Mom really wanted me to get the Arrow of Light award,
because if you get the Arrow of Light award, you also get
a patch. It has a yellow, right-pointing arrow stitched
onto a blue background, and the entire patch is about the size
of a stick of gum that you chew for a minute or two until the
sugar’s gone, and then you press the slobbery waste up against
the slick underside of a school desk, smirking. You smirk
as you press the wad of gum up in there, where the wood
meets the metal, even though you’ve previously been reprimanded
by those in authority for the improper disposal of chewed gum.
If you get the Arrow of Light award that comes with the
patch then you also get put through an award ceremony where
they turn off all the lights and you slowly walk up the steps of a
miniature staircase that lights up with each successive step
you take while a well-intentioned man with a microphone talks
about what a great little boy you are and about how the straight
and true arrow on your new patch represents the straight and true
manner in which Cub Scouts live their straight and true lives.
My Mom really wanted me to get the Arrow of Light award
that comes with that patch, so I had to observe insects
and identify leaves and learn the difference between
a standard screwdriver and a Phillips-head screwdriver,
which are all good and proper and worthwhile things,
but there was this one patch called the Physical Fitness patch,
and it was a required patch for the Arrow of Light award,
and so for thirty days in a row I had to exercise and write down
how many sit-ups and push-ups and jumping jacks I did.
I started the process, but I never finished, and I told my Mom
that I did finish, and I remember fabricating a document, because
Mom wanted me to get that Arrow of Light award and Mom wanted
me to get that patch and Mom wanted me to go through with
that ceremony where I stood in front of everybody with a smile
forced onto my face and everybody looked at me and everybody
clapped, so I lied.
I lied. I told a rotten lie to my dear, sweet mother, and I climbed
those steps and I let that man with the microphone keep talking
about straightness and keep talking about truth because
I was only a boy.
For years after the ceremony, every time I saw that patch on my
Scout shirt, I was reminded of the secret that I dared not tell, I
was reminded of the counterfeited exercise chart, and I knew
that I was a crooked Cub Scout. I knew that I was a deceiver,
and yet, I now perceive, that I had also been deceived.
Is it any wonder that on the day I left my parent’s house, I threw
away all my Scout stuff to make more space in my suitcase
for Bob Dylan CD’s?