Thursday, September 11, 2008

KRIS AND ME by Gregg Gethard

Things just seem to happen to Gregg Gethard. After telling a few stories at comedy shows in New York City, he created his own monthly show in Philly, BEDTIME STORIES, to tell a few more. Over the past year and a half the show has grown in audience and features some of the best comics in the city.

Here, Gregg recounts a tale from high school.

If you’ve read my stories on Comic Vs. Audience at all, you probably long ago realized I’m a pretty awful human being.

But the story I’m about to tell you now is, by far, the worst thing I have ever done to a human being I did not date. I’m truly ashamed to talk about this in a public setting and I still feel guilty about what happened to this day.

But I’ll tell it anyway, because it’s completely ridiculous.

This is the story of how, as a senior in high school, I cowardly fled from a freshman girl who wanted to fistfight me.

(Stick with this one all the way. TRUST me.)


I went to West Orange High School in North Jersey. My high school experience was one I still have a hard time comprehending. I generally had a lot of friends. I definitely had a lot of fun. But I still carry a certain amount angst about my four years as a Mountaineer.

This is because my high school was incredibly violent.

My school was filled with thugs, drifters and criminals of all shapes and sizes. From retread metalhead burnouts carrying switchblades to gangsta rap-influenced street gang members, we had it all. Also making the situation worse was the population of my school completely blew up by the time I graduated. It was already crowded when I started, with about 1000 students in the building. When I graduated, there were close to 1500.

The tightly packed quarters led to a general misery. Gym classes were held in the subterranean Lincoln Gym, which flooded whenever it rained. It didn’t matter, we still were forced to do calisthenics despite being ankle deep in a West Nile Virus breeding pit. All bathrooms were locked by October due to vandals setting urinals on fire. My senior year English class was held in a hallway because the desks in our classroom would routinely fall apart and collapse due to overuse.

I have not exaggerated one bit of the above paragraph.

All of this created a rough atmosphere where the lightest slight could lead to a brawl. And the most likely place for a fight to occur was in the worst room of them all.

The cafeteria.


The cafeteria was not in the worst shape. However, it was completely out-of-control. Seating was always limited and, sometimes, completely unavailable. There were two lunch lines – one for traditional food (which I did not get once in my four years of school due to its notorious diarrhea explosion aftermath) and one for the snack line, where one could purchase delicious and nutritious Brownie Bites and Slush Puppies.

The snack line was a routine place where a violent incident would occur. This is because at the end of the lunch line, every single day, a group of thugs would hang out near the cash register and either beg for change “Yo, can I have some change,my man?” or would simply demand change. If, after a change demand was denied, one could expect to receive a punch to the back of the neck. All of this would occur in front of a teacher who would simply watch and either not care or would cackle in glee.

Usually, lunch was made somewhat tolerable by having a chance to sit for 28 minutes with a large group of friends. But my senior year, I lost the luck of the draw. I had exactly one friend in the class with me: Kris Winters.

I knew Kris since kindergarten. In high school, I was somewhat of a misfit. I was a class clown (duh) who was a leader of the debate team and a decent writer/awful editor for the high school newspaper. I was really small (I was 5’6” and 115 pounds when I graduated) and, in most cases, a pretty nice guy. But I carried with me a deep seeded bitterness to the world and a ton of smug self-righteousness which I expressed by regularly shaving my head to show the world what a big punk rock fan/poser I was, even though my favorite band was and still is Weezer. I was ½ Bill Stevenson of the Descendents and ½ Ron Howard of Happy Days.

My friends were also along the lines of the outcast types as well. And Kris was by far the biggest. He and I, in 8th grade, had a contest to see who could go the longest without cutting their hair. I received an Indiana basketball player type of crew cut six weeks later. Kris never stopped competing in this contest. By the time senior year came around, his hair was down to his mid back. He also never shaved, giving himself a completely unruly beard. We also both loved thrift store clothing. I occasionally wore asinine outfits (including an orange corduroy jumpsuit with a build-in white belt) but Kris ALWAYS wore asinine outfits, mostly consisting of fluorescent shirts with flashy Zubaz pants.

We sat at the end of a giant table which ran the length of the entire cafeteria, seating approximately 1100 people. We were giant marks for the thugs and maniacs sitting near us. We spent the entire lunch period being pelted with food, rolled up paper, and, I kid you not, rocks. We were constantly ridiculed and threatened. And, occasionally, assaulted.

The worst perpetrator was George, this little piece-of-shit runt who was about half my size but was constantly surrounded by people three times my size. He’d constantly get right up in our faces and spit on our food, or would kick us under the table or would slap the backs of our necks.

Now, you might be asking yourself why we did not simply move lunch tables or skip lunch. This is because, while my school was usually anarchic, for some reason the administration had strict rules about cutting lunch. Getting caught cutting lunch usually resulted in at least an in-school suspension, if not more. And why not tell someone so this could all end? Because my high school was a pioneer in the “Stop Snitchin’” movement which punishes people for going to authorities for witnessed and/or suffered crimes.

Plus, moving tables didn’t really matter. No matter where we went, we would have faced the same ordeal. And our seats were strategically located as we had a clear path to an exit in case things ever got completely out of hand.

Kris was always fighting back against George. He always encouraged me to do the same. “You’ve got to stand up for yourself, man. You look pathetic just taking it all the time,” he would say. But I discovered sticking up for myself wasn’t an option I wanted to ever explore a long time ago. It’s a whole risk/reward situation. If I stick up for myself, I still get assaulted but maybe retain some pride, but I didn’t have any anyways. If I don’t even try to stand up for myself, I don’t exert any effort (a key to my life when I was 17) and face a slight beating. Either way, the outcome was the same.

But one day, Kris prodded me into defending myself. He was relentless and would not stop at all. George was being particularly awful to me that day. Threatening me, knocking my food off the table, etc. Finally, after he attempted to do his trademarked spit in my drink offense, I got up and shoved him back in his chair, which then fell over. His crew all howled and he was super pissed. He knew I could probably beat his ass in a fight, the only reason I didn’t was because his friends would destroy me if I tried. But he was embarrassed and humiliated.

And then he got up.

“You want to throw down with me? Huh? Well, you just wait until tomorrow, man. I got someone you can throw down with.”

And I waited for tomorrow to come.


Lunch was mostly quiet the next day, except for George’s occasional snicker and threat. “You don’t even know what’s comin’, my man.” Finally, the lunch bell rang.

Then I heard, from down the table, a low voice say to me.

“I’m going to fuck you up you piece of fucking shit.”

This was said by Diane Reemer, a 5’10”, 215-pound girl known for two things: wearing brass knuckles as jewelry and for allegedly putting a kid a lot bigger than me in the hospital because of a curb stomp straight out of American History X. She was regarded as not just the toughest girl in the freshman class, but as the toughest person.

She had her brass knucks on. And her fist was cocked. And she was coming right after me.

So, I did what any senior guy in high school would do in this situation.

I got out of my seat. I screamed for my life. And I ran down the clear path I had to the exit, as the entire cafeteria called me a faggot.


Kris called me about three times that night. He insisted I had to go to lunch that next day. I was just going to suck it up and risk suspension and cut. But he finally broke me down. I agreed to go to lunch.

I was in a complete and total no-win situation. If I fought Diane Reemer, I’d get suspended for a few days and also would earn the rep of a guy who fought a girl. Plus, she’d beat the everlasting shit out of me. But if I ran again, there would be no way I could look at myself in the mirror ever again. So I had to formulate a plan.

I came up with what I considered a brilliant idea. I knew she would charge at me. And I would simply duck under my arms like Don Flamenco in Punch Out. She’s connect but the blow, hopefully, wouldn’t do any damage. I’d then cover up and fall to the ground and let her beat me until a teacher came to break up the fight. That way, I wouldn’t get suspended and I wouldn’t face the humiliation of losing in a fight to a girl.

The end of lunch came. George and his thug friends surrounded me to prevent me from running. Diane got up and looked at me.

“I am going to beat the fuck out of you you motherfucking pussy.”

She again charged me. And just as when she was about to punch me...

Kris said “I’ve had enough of this shit” and leaped across the table and hit her with a closed fist right on her left orbital bone. No harder punch had ever been thrown or connected better in the history of high school fights.

Diane went down to one knee. I thought she was dead. But she wasn’t.

Instead, she hopped up to both her feet like a feral animal. She then grabbed Kris by the ends of his mullet and delivered a series of four Muy-Thai style knee thrusts to the bridge of his nose, and then tossed him to the ground like a rag doll. She then hovered over Kris, smacked away his glasses, crushing them under her foot, and then sat on his chest while repeatedly pummeling his face as the entire cafeteria started screaming things like “You got your ass beat by a girl.”

I just stood there and watched. I did nothing except smile.

At least it wasn’t me who got his ass kicked by a girl.

Gregg also writes for and


Pruneface said...

It's good to know you've got my back if I'm ever in a jam.

Rob said...