Warning Signs 8

“I understand.” Telling this lie did not bother Dan, as the truth would have only poured gasoline onto the noxious tire fire that was his student’s rage. No experience, no knowledge he had acquired in his thrity-six years of living had prepared Dan for Double-J’s anger. It never seemed to abate, genuine laughter always tinged with mocking disdain for the humor’s source, appreciation of an opponent’s well-executed attack sounding more like disappointment at his inability to stop it (not next time buddy), the rare moment of empathy coming with a promise to eradicate the cause of the pain he had chosen to share.

Dan had worked with Double-J for over three years, had noticed his rage from the very first practice, and at first trusted he could address the issue in the same manner he had approached the personality quirks of his other students. I don’t teach them anything, he’d tell parents, coaches from other schools, his fellow teachers at Bark Bay. I just make them aware of consequences — you do this, then that will happen. Get them to see the pattern, the predictability. Once they understand that, they’re smart enough to figure out what to do. Double-J was the first student who hadn’t cared about the consequences, saw the disastrous results of his destructive fury as just more reason to be even more angry.

And now, looking at Double-J’s snarl skidding across his bearded face as Jimmy stood blocking the teen’s path to him, Dan could only think about how he had failed his student.

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