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Succeeding without Labels—Lessons for Educators



The look in the eyes of the three older children across the street caused Mug to turn back. He had to cross to the side of the street where they stood in order to reach the school playground. It must have been instinct that told him they were seedy at best. He turned around and picked up his pace as he neared the corner. One of the older children, around the age of 12, called after him. The tone in that voice confirmed his suspicion; they were up to no good.

Something emblazoned in Mug's instincts told him to remain calm although he was scared. Mug felt them hurrying their steps behind him. Once Mug turned the corner, he darted underneath a car parked at the curb. His assailants, now running, came around the corner and were miffed by Mug's sudden disappearance. As they searched for him, Mug considered the danger of being squashed by the tires of his hiding place if the driver were to show. Having seen many road kills, Mug decided that what his tormentors might have in store for him was likely less catastrophic than becoming road kill. Mug crawled out to face the music.

"There he is!" said the adolescent girl who was clearly the ring leader. One of the boys, around the same age as the girl, resembled her. Mug assumed they were brother and sister. They were accompanied by another boy only a couple of years older than Mug. "What's your name?" she asked. "Mug," replied Mugamore. "Where do you live?" she asked while her eyes surveyed the scene as if she were looking out for adults who might know Mug. "Right there on 200th Street," Mug said with a longing in his heart to be home safe. "Come with us," she demanded, and the trio surrounded him while leading him down an alleyway.

This alleyway fit all stereotypes of inner city danger zones. The garages lining either side of that seldom used causeway were locked and shuttered, or doorless and rotting. The ground consisted of cracked and pitted cement with weeds growing like trees. Broken beer bottles were scattered about with the pungent smell of beer and urine circulating in the air.

The miscreant youth led Mug toward the center of the alleyway. They stopped at an abandoned car that had been stripped of all of its worthy parts. "Get on the car!" she demanded to Mug. Mug climbed onto the car's dented and scratched trunk as ordered. "Take your pants down," she said with a bit of anticipation creeping into her voice. Mug complied. He believed the safest way out of this predicament was to do whatever she wanted. Mug could not quite understand why she wanted his pants down. Mug had six brothers along with his sister, so running around the house in underwear was no big deal.

"Pull down your underwear," she said with a bit of wonder. Mug couldn't tell if she was curious about what she would see, or amazed that she could wield such power over someone. When Mug dropped his drawers the boys began to giggle as the girl examined his little penis with her eyes. "It's so tiny," she said with a bit of disappointment. What did she expect from a five-year-old boy? "Pull your pants up," she said with disgust. "Get in the car," she directed while pointing at the back seat. Once Mug was inside the car, she lit a match and threw the burning stick inside the car with him. As the match burned on the floor, she said "Don't move!" and the trio took off running.

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© Jonathan T. Jefferson