Remembering a protector
May 13, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
Currently I’m doing research for my next novel, constructing a life that never was. Or may have been. Who knows? Part of the novel I’m going to write takes place in Tyler, Texas, where I lived from 1972 to 1975. Even so, everything in the book is false. I made it all up. It’s just a story. What’s true is that I had a protector in the fifth and sixth grades, a kid named Thurman Biscoe. Last night I learned that Thurman died on September 13, 1986, at the age of twenty-four.
I can’t find any information on Thurman’s death. It was a Saturday, so I’m thinking car accident. A few days ago, I wrote about how lots of the people who bullied me came to a bad end. Well, so did Thurman, I’m sad to say. Twenty-four is just the beginning. When I was twenty-four, I was in Japan, having my world rocked by the Cat Faced Ghost in the Rising Sun.
I don’t know what sort of life Thurman led, but it should’ve been long and happy and full of adventures, because I can say without exaggeration that if he hadn’t protected me, I’d probably be dead. At the very least, I’d be a drunk, bullying, divorced, failed father. Maybe I’d be a convicted murderer.
Here’s Thurman in the fifth grade, the only photo I have of him.
The physical and psychological assaults at Rice Elementary School were so violent that I lost my mind. I realize now that I was in a constant state of dissociation from post-traumatic stress disorder. Nightmares made sleep impossible, and there was nobody to whom I could confide. When Thurman began beating the absolute crap out of the kids who picked on me, I stopped flunking and was able to finish fifth and sixth grades.
Thurman never said, “I’m your protector.” He was a cool kid who ran with a different crowd. However, he obviously had a well-developed sense of justice. As I said in my earlier post, Mom had to drive me when we went on field trips, because putting me on the bus would’ve been like tossing a baby gazelle into a pen of starving hyenas. Mom let Thurman ride with us in our car.
My family being what it is, Mom never asked why I had a protector. Everything was unspoken: Thurman’s protection, the school grudgingly sparing me from certain death, and Mom’s special arrangement to keep me segregated from my classmates.
One trip was to the Carnegie Library and History Center.
It really was a trip, in that I didn’t bother following all the other kids and the docent, and Mom wandered off by herself. I was therefore totally on my own. My life made no sense whatsoever. It was all about going through the motions: style over substance and keeping your mouth shut.
At the library they had this amazing Civil War battle diorama, with little soldier-figures an inch tall. I studied it intently, memorizing every detail. Years later I built my own dioramas, some of which were featured in international hobby magazines.
Rice Elementary School is going to be rebuilt. It’ll look exactly like a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.
I can’t think of a better design, except for maybe this.
Recently I got an e-mail from someone who told me I’m racist because I said in Ghosts and Ballyhoo that I despise Samuel L. Jackson. The funny thing is, that accusation is itself an indication of a racist mindset, as is this.
Thurman wasn’t my black protector; he was my protector. He loved my mother, seen here with our dog Charlie in 1972—the year I nearly died, and the year Thurman intervened with his fists on my behalf. He didn’t “dialog” with anyone; he punched them and flung them against hard surfaces until they left me alone.
And Thurman Biscoe wasn’t a “magical Negro” either. If he were alive, I’d give you $10,000 to say that to his face. No, he was just someone with a big heart. You people who see only race? I can’t express how sick you make me. Your retrograde worldview insults the memory of my protector. Go to hell, all of you. My “white privilege” didn’t keep me from being abused worse than Samuel L. Jackson ever was, nor did it prevent a black kid from helping me. He and I were colorblind.
The last time I saw Thurman was the day I fixed Bobby Joe Manziel III’s wagon for torturing me during the seventh and half of the eighth grade. I had no protector at Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School. As classes were being let out for the Christmas break, I saw a kid at least six-foot-three talking with our school’s best football players. He had a huge Afro and weighed three hundred pounds. I stared at him, wondering, Could it be…?
He looked over at me. “You know who I am, baby?” he asked, smiling.
“Thurman,” I said. Then more of his friends joined him, and he sauntered off. As they turned the corner, he looked back and waved. I raised my hand, and he disappeared.
I’m sorry you died, Thurman. You saved my life. I wish I could’ve saved yours.
You and me are old
You and me are young
You and me have always
Let words go unsung
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