Me and my brother Paul got accepted to a weekend gifted program when we were 8 or 9. More accurately, my brother got in to the gifted program on his own smarts and I was the dumbest kid in there by a wide margin. I have a fuzzy recollection of how I got in to the program at all (something about my dad doctoring an application form to get me in) but it was pretty obvious to me at least that I was in way over my head.

Every Saturday, we'd go to the school and every week I dreaded it; not just because I didn't like feeling stupid on my day off but also because I was getting bullied in there. By nerds.

I could hear the other kids sigh and giggle as I raised my hand yet again to say "teacher, I don't get it." In group projects, none of the kids would work with me. I often would sit alone until the teacher would pair up with me. This was a period of time where Pauly—a year older than me—would rather be seen as "cool" by the other shitty kids than to be a good brother to me (I forgive you now, Pauly. Mostly).

My dad, a target for bullies from an early age, realized how much I hated going. A few weeks in to the program, we stopped at Mister Donut on the way and he got two dozen donuts for me to share with my tormentors, hoping the kids would be nicer to the kid who brought in a treat. When I walked in to class, the teacher—a young pretty lady with a sweet disposition—said that once class was over, we could all go to the cafeteria and have donuts.

There used to be a Mister Donut in my hometown, but today I learned they have since moved to Japan, and are called Misutā Dōnatsu.

We went to the cafeteria and I put out the two boxes of donuts. Every one of the 15 or 16 kids grabbed from the colorful plethora in front of them. We sat at a long cafeteria table and much to my surprise, they were actually a pretty friendly group. We talked about Thundercats, one of my favorite shows ever, before they said their thanks and headed to their parents' waiting cars.

One kid though, the leader of the nerd bullies, saw that there were donuts left over. He went to grab another and I pulled the box away from him.

"Can I have another donut?" he asked, as though I didn't understand the universal sign of reaching for a donut as an explicit request for more donuts.

"No!" I said, an annoyed look on my face. This kid—whose name is lost to history but I'll call Zak because that sounds like the name of a shitty 80s bully, doesn't it?—was a turd. He wore a mock turtleneck, khaki slacks and penny loafers like he was little Lord Fauntleroy, in sharp contrast to my Nikes and bootleg Guess sweatshirt. If we were at a regular school instead of a gifted program, me and my dum-dum friends would have rolled on him at recess no problem. Unfortunately, gifted class was this weird Opposite World where an awesome kid like me had to bring donuts just so shitbirds like Zak would even say hello. 

"Pleeeeease?" He begged. I stared at him, the hamster wheel in my head slowly turning as I realized I actually had the upper hand for once.

"Ok," I said, thinking of what he could trade me for a precious and delicious Mister Donut treat, "but first... stick your head in the garbage."

Beside the long bench table stood an enormous cafeteria-sized garbage can with little swivel doors on it.

"You promise you'll give me a donut?" Zak asked, his nose upturned.

"Mm-hmm," and with that, this little turd stuck his stupid fat head in the garbage can. I can't say for sure where the teacher was, but she surely couldn't have been around considering this was probably something she would have put the kibosh on.

He pulled his head out real quick, his eyes bulging a bit. "OK, can I have a donut now?" 

"Uhhh, not yet." I said, realizing how badly this kid wanted the donut. "You gotta put your head in there and count to five." 

Zak, looking at me shiftily, nodded slowly, a look of disgust on his face. He shoved his head in that greazy garbage can for a second time. "12345!" he shouted quickly and pulled his head out, his face a gnarled mask of terror.

"Nope," I told him, "you gotta count slow." 

"WHAT?!" Zak shouted, exasperated. He looked over at the box of remaining 4 or 5 donuts. He swallowed harshly, the Adam's apple pronounced in his scrawny neck. "Ok fine, but I want two donuts then." 

"Deal." I told him, and again he took a deep breath. He braced the garbage can with both hands and jammed his head in once again, his spiky hair, thick with gel, unmoving throughout this entire ordeal. "ONNNNNE, TWOOOOOOO..." he counted off slowly and loudly. As he counted, I quickly packed up the last of the donuts and walked outside to my dad's waiting car.

The next Saturday, I presumed I was going into a warzone. Instead, most of the kids were nice. Some actually asked to pair up with me. Even Zak was surprisingly nice to me, which I always chalked up to the fact that I not only outsmarted him, I made him look like an idiot.

What have we learned today kids? 

  1. Donuts are awesome, but they're not worth your dignity, Zak.
  2. Don't be a shitbird.

Tattoo those two rules on your thigh and all the day you'll have good luck.

Luis Rodriguez