Thomas Wictor

Predators beware. Someone’s got my back

Predators beware. Someone’s got my back

Doing research for my next novel, I discovered something: A lot of the people who made my life miserable have come to horrific ends. Predators beware.

In 1972 my family moved to Tyler, Texas. Though I’d been bullied in Venezuela, what Texans did to me was so brutal it was like satire. My siblings and I lasted less than a week on the public-school bus. After three or four days of being assaulted by humanoids we couldn’t even understand, we told our parents that we wouldn’t go to school anymore. So Mom and Jackie Ungerecht from up the street took turns driving us to school and bringing us home.


In the fifth grade at Rice Elementary School, kids stole my lunch money, smashed my face, made fun of me, and cast me out. I ended up a stuttering, blinking, twitching wreck with high blood pressure, until a giant named Thurman took pity on me and became my protector. The best day was when a kid smacked me as he passed, and Thurman threw him against the brick wall so hard that his head bounced off it like a basketball. He burst into tears and never bothered me again.

Since I was the school punching bag, the teachers arranged with Mom that whenever we went on field trips, she would drive me. I asked her if we could take Thurman in the car with us; she agreed. He fell in love with Mom because she treated him as though she were his chauffeur, opening the door for him and calling him “Sir.” He knew it was a game, but it obviously flattered him to death.

Thurman was a very poor black kid, yet now he had this beautiful lady pretending to work for him. While the other kids were crammed into the hellish bus with its leaf-spring suspension that threw passengers into the ceiling, Thurman and I were driven in a private car. He even gave Mom orders in a magisterial voice.

“Turn left now, driver,” he’d say, languidly waving his hand.

“Yes, sir. Right away, sir.”

When I finished sixth grade, I was enrolled in Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School. Within three minutes of walking into the school building, a kid I’ll call “Martin” made it clear how life would be.

“You going out for the football team?” he asked.

“Um, no,” I said.

“Shit. You got any brothers here?”

“Yes. Two.”

“They got big ol’ heads like a potato bug, like you?”

And a hundred voices screamed with laughter. I was instantly dubbed “Potato Bug,” shortened to “Bug” in about a month. I didn’t know what a potato bug was. Though I thought it was just a creative insult, such a creature actually exists.


The Jerusalem cricket is its real name. Here’s my seventh-grade school portrait, which emphasizes my stupendous, insectoid head.


I’m wearing one of my “cruddy sweaters,” as the kids called them. My experiences are part of the curriculum at Georgetown University. What Georgetown doesn’t know is that being sketched in art class as a fat freak was paradise in comparison to the rest of the stuff that happened.

Martin—the kid who dubbed me Potato Bug—made it his mission to torture me every chance he got. My novel Chasing the Last Whale may or may not include firsthand experiences. Texans took their high-school football very seriously; since I hated the game, I was referred to as “queer bait.” Gorman’s team were the Crusaders. Tim took a photo of the mascot.


I’m don’t know what those green cat-devils are. Whenever I was forced to watch a football game, I put myself into a coma. The only thing I remember about Gorman’s games is that the kids and adults would get so wound up that they’d cry. Throwing a ball and running were acts of great heroism that overwhelmed people with emotion.

The school staff were nuns who beat the living hell out of me. They had names like Sister Michael and Sister George. One walked as though a rope were tied around her knees. She seemed terrified that someone might gain access to her inguina. I can’t remember her name, but she looked exactly like John Boehner.

Farm Fight

My world was thus occupied with two-fisted nuns afraid that someone might ravish them, football players who got the entire school in on the Demolish Tom act, artists with a keen eye for my physical deformities, and Bobby Joe Manziel III. Of all the earthlings I’ve encountered, Bobby Joe was one of the most vicious. He came from a famous, extremely wealthy family and was the darling of Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School.

The Manziels donated gargantuan sums to the school and church, so Bobby could do no wrong. He tripped me, stabbed me with pencils, threw soda in my face, and pushed me down a flight of concrete stairs. The nuns saw him do all this, but stopping him might’ve jeopardized the cash flow. Bobby assailed me for all of the seventh grade and half of the eight.

On the last day of school before Christmas break of 1975, Bobby swung his book bag into my nose. Blood shot across the hall, velocious from hypertension. I finally snapped and ran after Bobby, but the nuns grabbed me by the back of my cruddy sweater and threatened to have me expelled. Bobby laughed from down the hall.

Dad had gotten transferred to the Netherlands, so I wouldn’t be coming back to Gorman when Christmas vacation was over. After PE class, while Bobby was in the shower, I impulsively walked over to his clothes, picked them up, stood on the chair, and threw them out the window. His wallet and Rolex watch went with them. They landed behind a hedge that grew against the side of the building.

I did this completely openly, but nobody noticed. When Bobby came out of the shower, he panicked and told the coach that his clothes, wallet, and Rolex were gone. As I left the gym, Bobby stood there naked, his arms folded, watching the coach search the floor and lockers. You’d think the whole class would be detained until the thief was identified, wouldn’t you? Well, nothing of the sort transpired.

Bobby wore his smelly gym shirt and shorts—with no underwear—for the rest of the day. Everyone now laughed at him, which he found humiliating. It was as if the entire school of devout Catholics had been hypnotized first into not seeing me throw his junk out the window and then into not caring that a student’s wallet and Rolex were missing. My family moved to the Netherlands, and I never saw Bobby again.

But that’s not the end of the story. Today I learned that Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel got in trouble for selling his autograph, which I guess is not allowed. No idea, since as I said before, I hate football. In the middle of the article, I read this.

The Texas Department of Public Safety reports that Lone Star State cops have busted Bobby Joe III, born Aug. 21, 1962, at least 13 times. Charges range from grand theft to fraud to felony drug possession. He’s spent most of the past 20 years in prison or on probation.

Yup. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Bobby!


Not so cocky anymore. I did a little more research and discovered that the kid who named me Potato Bug got drafted into the NFL but had a career of less than a year due to a freak injury. He’s had one disaster after another. And the guy who drew me in art class is a registered sex offender.

What do you suppose the future holds for Mike Albee, Lura Dold, and Becca Pilkington?

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