I think bullying was INVENTED at the Catholic school I attended. Let’s just call it “Our Lady of Eternal Guilt and Suffering”. The priests bullied the nuns, who bullied the kids, who bullied each other. Monsignor Barry bullied everyone. God forbid, you should draw the short straw and get THAT guy for confession. “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been one week since my last confession. I argued with my brother twice and, uh… I thought impure thoughts once.” Actually, I thought impure thoughts CONSTANTLY – 24/7/365 days a year – mainly about Mary Olson – and I don’t think there was a 13-year-old boy in my school who didn’t. “Impure thoughts??? I KNEW it. You’ll grow hair on your palms, go blind and burn for eternity in Hell for this! For your penance, my son, you must prostrate yourself at the foot of the altar, say 100 Our Fathers, 50 Hail Marys, 1000 Rosaries, and have yourself flogged on the way out the door.” Our Lady of Eternal Guilt and Suffering felt about as close as you could get to reform school without actually being shipped out to juvie or military academy. Desperate parents sent their problem children there to straighten up. Consequentially, there was a motley assortment of every badass greaser and hood for miles around; and they bullied everything that moved. I had so many alternate routes home through backyards and over fences that it was like escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Of course, sometimes, the only response to a bully was a bigger bully. Enter Mr. Gundersen, the 8th grade lay teacher at Our Lady of Eternal Guilt and Suffering. He was hulking man of Swedish descent and the butt of more than a few unkind “big, dumb Swede” remarks. A middle-aged bachelor who still lived with his mother, his daily uniform was an ill-fitting navy blue suit, white shirt, tie, what must have been size 15 shoes and a perennial 5 o’clock shadow. Mr. Gundersen coached football, basketball and track. Acting as ad hoc Dean of Students whose mission it was to scare the absolute bejesus out of everyone, he was more like a hit man who could be called in at a moment’s notice to administer a hallway tune-up against the lockers to any of the 8th grade boys who were singled out as being disruptive or defiant. However, he was the only teacher who was physically intimidating enough to act as judge, jury and executioner, as well as Defender of the Faith and Protector of the Meek and Mild, and the rest of our sorry lot against the greasers and hoods. Even then, his tactics were dubious, but in THIS day and age, he’d be doing a stretch of hard time for child abuse. However, in the fashion of all petty tyrants, he did manage to maintain some kind of despotic law and order.