The teacher hushed the class and went on to explain to me the difficulties of such an endeavor. That I should understand, that there were no longer knights in shining armor, and that I should reconsider. She then suggested things for me to become, an executive, a fisherman or maybe a racecar driver. I resisted and tried to explain that knights protected the weak and the poor, and that was the job for me. I then went forth, and contradicted her, saying that I knew very well, that they still existed in England. I remember she frowned, then grimaced and pointing her finger toward the door, told me, “Well, then maybe you can just go to England and be one there!”
I grew confused and wanted to know if I had to go now, or could I at least wait until the end of the school day. She thought I was trying to be a smartass and threatened me with the Principal, if I didn’t shut up. She then told us to open our math books and to prepare for our next lesson. The rest of the kids glared at me. I had made the teacher mad, and now the rest of the class would not be allowed to say what they wanted to be. They had been denied, and it was my fault. The playground would be a perilous place that day.
I did shut up, but it didn’t change my mind.
In the fourth grade, a student who had arrived weeks before, was picking on a friend of mine for being effeminate. The kid was a bully, and was trying to make a name for himself among his peers. The other kids in the parking lot just stood and watched as Chris was pummeled and slapped. When I entered the lot and walked that direction, Chris called out to me, pleading for my help. I couldn’t just walk away, and I remember becoming very afraid. I had been called out.
When the bully turned to me, and threatened that I would be next, I got mad. Real mad. I told him to leave my friend alone and to quit going around, beating kids up all the time. When he came after me, I figured this was the way things were going to be if I wanted to be a knight. So, when he drew back his fist to strike me, I hit him first, right in the nose. Then I punched him in the stomach and then kicked him in the groin. Chris ran away. The other kids ran with him. The bully was now on his knees, clutching his crotch and crying. With blood running out of his nose,and me standing over him, I waited to see if there needed to be more.
The attendant soon came over and promptly took me away to the Principal’s office. Principal Jones wanted to know why I was always fighting? I told him people shouldn’t go around making trouble and, matter of factly, a knight was supposed to protect the weak. I remember him getting up and closing the door. Then, taking his big wooden paddle down off the wall, he turned and politely instructed me to bend over and grab my ankles.
This would be the price of nobility. No good deed ever goes unpunished. My mettle had been tested. There would always be consequences. Because, it didn’t matter who started it, even though I begged to differ. Yet, that would always be my burden to bear.
As I grew older and came into the age of abstract thought, I started to understand the way of the world. I learned that I didn’t have to literally be a knight to help people in need. That, in the 20th century it was more of a figure of speech. I didn’t need armor or a horse, a lance or a sword. In Britain, men were bequeathed this status by royalty. An honor bestowed, and nothing more. They were recognized for merit. This realization only made it easier for me. I could still be an upright, honorable, and principled man, without all that other stuff.
At nineteen, the good state of Iowa offered to pay my tuition if I were to attend a reputable college. Agreeing to do so, I went off to an institution of my choosing. Because I was poor, I could receive all the benefits they had to offer, but I would also have to get a job on campus as a student worker. The college administration chose for me, a position in the safety office. I was to lock and unlock doors, turn on lights and was required to protect life and property to the best of my ability. As a student, I would have to put in four hours, three days a week, sometimes working with the full time guards, a less than savory lot of near-do-wells.
I soon made a name for myself on campus and became the ‘go to guy’. Other students would seek me out for help, especially when they felt they couldn’t approach the official employees of the department. I was honored with little dinners by sororities, and awarded for heroism several times for going above and beyond the call of my student worker status. This created discontent among the others within that department. Why should I, a student, be given something they felt they deserved more. The head of the department, an ex-policeman, sought to solve the problem by offering me a full time position. However, I would have to put an end to school, and give up my education.
I remember he sat me down in his office, and proceeded to tell me about the benefits of a forty-hour work week, and being under his tutelage. When he finished, he asked me the big question, “Will I or won’t I?” Make a decision. Make it now. I hesitated. He grumbled and fidgeted. I put a finger to my lips and studied the ceiling. He groaned and cursed under his breath. Finally standing up, he glared at me, and slapping his hands down hard on his desk, he practically yelled, "Well! What do you want to be?"
“Noble?” I said.